Canine distemper cases on the rise in Harris County shelter, fosters desperately needed

- "It's taking a toll on everybody here," said Harris County Animal Shelter Director Dr. Michael White.

Canine Distemper is a devastating disease.

"It's such a contagious disease and almost 100 percent fatal," White said.

This all started last week with calls to the shelter about possible Canine Distemper.

Dogs can shed the infectious virus without showing any signs of the disease for several days. Symptoms include runny eyes and nose fever coughing diarrhea and vomiting. With 17 confirmed cases the shelter has implemented Code Red procedures.

"There's zero tolerance for upper respiratory disease," White said.

It's common for the shelter to see dogs with runny noses or a cough and 99 percent of the time it's not Canine Distemper.

"Zero tolerance so those animals that are showing any signs of upper respiratory either they have to go out with a foster or rescue group or we have to be able to isolate them," the shelter director said.

The shelter, which is now housing 450 animals has little space to quarantine dogs who may have the distemper virus.

"We don't really have a legitimate quarantine isolation room," White said. "We have some rooms to set aside for that."

The shelter is notifying people who adopted dogs from June 15 through July 24 to be on the look out for symptoms and contact the shelter if they think their pet was exposed to the virus.

Has the shelter had to euthanize more animals than normal because of the Canine Distemper outbreak?

"So far no, but if it continues that may be something we have to do and that's very unfortunate," White said.

The shelter is hoping more people will become fosters. There's a lot of great dogs that need to get out of the shelter ASAP especially puppies.

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