Wenatchee Valley Humane Society Warns Pet Owners on Importance of Vaccinations

WENATCHEE - Precautionary measures are being taken at Wenatchee Valley Humane Society (WVHS) after two dogs tested positive for the distemper virus. As a result, WVHS medical team and staff have diligently reviewed canine intake dates and cross referenced them with vaccination history. Dogs at the shelter who may have been exposed to the distemper virus will be titer tested to evaluate level of protection.  For now, they are quarantined pending results.   WVHS is attempting to contact pet owners with the highest risk of exposure to inform them that their dog may have been exposed.

The two dogs that tested positive for canine distemper were two of six dogs rescued from a hoarding case in Texas on Jan 7, 2020. The Texas rescue group provided medical care, vaccinations, flea and tick medication, heartworm tests, and provided spay/neuter services. Symptoms were not present during a pre-transport medical exam and each dog received a clean bill of health prior to transport to Washington State on Feb 8, 2020, a full month after they were rescued.

It is WVHS policy that every animal, including those transported, receive a full examination and vaccinations upon arrival. The Texas dogs did not show illness upon arrival, but five days later, six dogs showed signs of "kennel cough,” a common illness much like a human cold, and the dogs were moved into isolation.  A week later, one dog began having neurologic signs, declining quite rapidly, which led to her being humanely euthanized. Test results received on February 28, 2020 confirmed the distemper virus. The second dog was tested after it started to show progressive signs, and test results came back yesterday, also positive for the virus.

“Distemper is rare in our area, so we were surprised by the unexpected test results.” Dawn Davies, Executive Director of WVHS, explains.  “We’ve reached out to Washington State University School of Veterinary Medicine
and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine Program to confirm protocol.  We have been assured that we are taking all of the right steps, being cautious and emphasized that this is not an outbreak.”

Dog in a hoarding situation are at a disadvantage.  Their immune systems are compromised from living in less than sanitary conditions and these dogs were likely exposed to the virus prior to being rescued and vaccinated in January. Puppies under four to six months are considered high risk because their immune systems are not fully developed. However, Davies cautions, the disease can be anywhere.

“Disease is always a risk at a shelter.  But, the same risk exists wherever there are a group of dogs together, like the dog park or agility trail.” states Davies. “Disease can spread through sharing a water bowl, elimination is a public area, a runny nose touching another nose, and on and on.”

“We are reaching out to our local veterinarian partners to inform them of the possibility of distemper so they can make informed recommendations to clients,” Davies says, “For instance, if you take your dog to the vet for a cough or vomiting, they may also choose to do a titer test for distemper.”

“Many decades ago, a virus like distemper could have wiped out an entire community of pets.  Thanks to extremely effective vaccinations, the risk is low and it is the best defense that you can give your pet.” continues
Davies, “It’s sort of like polio in humans. Why take the risk when there is a vaccination that can protect our health?”

If your dog has been exposed to a WVHS shelter dog between the dates of February 8-28, you are encouraged to call WVHS at 509-662-9577 or talk to your veterinarian about any potential risk and available tests as well as
confirming that your pets’ vaccinations are current.

Despite the limited quarantine, overall risk is low and the shelter is open as usual.

About WVHS:  Founded in 1967, the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society is a private, non-profit organization with a mission to serve Chelan and Douglas Counties through education, protection and pet adoptions. WVHS cares for displaced pets, rescues injured and lost animals, investigates animal cruelties, and finds homes for orphaned animals. WVHS engages in a Pets for Life philosophy by providing low cost spay/neuter programs, periodic vaccination clinics, and hosting pet food assistance banks to income-qualified residents throughout its community. By caring for pets and the people who love them, WVHS is creating a humane society in the Wenatchee Valley. If you would like to volunteer, donate, or more information on how you can help, visit wenatcheehumane.org, email wvhs@wenatcheehumane.org or call (509) 662-9577.

User menu

NCW Media Newspapers