Las Cruces Animal Shelter Suffers Distemper Outbreak

Aug 12, 2018

  The Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley is working to clear an outbreak of distemper, a contagious virus that affects dogs and can be fatal if not properly treated.



My staff is working hard on containment, transmission blocking and treatment of this disease, which is not uncommon in shelter environments, but merits aggressive attention each time it flares up,” said ASCMV Executive Director Clint Thacker.



In July of 2018, seven dogs at the center tested positive for the distemper virus. In addition, up to seven dogs that went to New Mexico and out-of-state rescues displayed symptoms after arriving at those facilities.



“Distemper is very hard to diagnose in its early stages without a test being sent to a lab,” Thacker said. “It’s a chameleon virus, meaning it mimics the clinical signs of other viruses and bacterial infections. You have a dog that has the clinical signs of kennel cough, so you treat for kennel cough, but it could actually be distemper.” ASCMV Medical Director Susan Baiz said


The ASCMV has already taken steps and made the following changes:


Implementing changed cleaning protocols for dogs.


Re-vaccinating all dogs for distemper.


Medically treating dogs for distemper that show any signs of any illness.


Educated staff about distemper and how it can be passed on to other dogs.


Euthanizing dogs that are not responding to medical treatments. The ASCMV is not closing its doors or suspending dog adoptions.


“Only 15 percent of our dog population is undergoing medical treatment at this time,” Baiz said. “The situation is well controlled, and we’re making sure our adoptable animals are healthy and ready to go to loving homes. All adopting families are current with the appropriate vaccines.”


Distemper is not contagious to cats. Thacker suspects the virus was introduced by one or more impounded animals, but he said the source is less important than the fact that the situation was quickly identified and appropriately addressed. He said its presence in the community is a reminder to all responsible pet owners to keep their pets up to date on their vaccinations.