Last week, a confirmed case of distemper in the Big Spring Animal Shelter resulted in the euthanization of several animals. Canine distemper is a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies and dogs.
According to Vittoria Mejia, with Merkery Rescue, distemper can start off with a cough. It can look like an upper respiratory infection or like kennel cough.
"It's also known as hard-pad disease. [The dogs'] paw pads will get very hard, or their nose pads will get hard as well. Long-term stages, they'll start having seizures, and neurological damage. If it gets that far, it's kind of hard to bring them back," said Mejia.
Over the weekend, the remaining animals were removed from the shelter and taken to the old Western Hills Veterinary Clinic and vaccinated while volunteers gathered to deep clean and disinfect kennels and other areas so that the virus will not spread.
Susan Marquez with Happy Day Humane Society and who has 30 years of rescue experience, told KBest News that vaccinations accelerate the symptoms of diseases like distemper or parvo. She noted that if the animals don't show signs of distemper within 1 week - 14 days, the animals can be adopted out.
"[Housing dogs at Western Hills] is just a short-term thing. They want us to find rescues and adopters for the ones out there so they don't have to be euthanized," stated Marquez.
Mayor Shannon Thomason told KBest News that he was made aware of the possibility of distemper less than two weeks ago. Since then, he said the information was forwarded to Big Spring Police Department, and he reached out to rescues, and to American Pets Live to help coordinate a game plan to tackle the virus and move forward.
Mayor Thomason told KBest News that he was thankful for the citizens of Big Spring who turned out to clean up the facility, and Scott Emerson for helping to get the word out that volunteers and cleaning materials were needed. He also thanked American Pets Live and the Big Spring Animal Control Wardens.
The Big Spring Animal Shelter is re-opened for new intake.