Distemper outbreak in Kern County forces animal shelters to euthanize infected dogs

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The latest on a deadly distemper outbreak that has ravaged the Bakersfield Animal Care Center. 17 News has learned that this establishment is not the only one.

Unity K9 Express Rescue and Kern County Animal Care Services were also affected and are also forced to resort to euthanizing their infected dogs.

Distemper is highly contagious and airborne. It can easily be transmitted when dogs cough, sneeze or even bark. Dogs can also spread the disease through physical contact with bodily fluids. But the disease cannot be transmitted to humans.

More than 100 dogs were euthanized from city and county shelters, including Unity K9 Express Rescue. The problem is distemper, the canine disease that is spreading throughout the county.

“We have to cohabit with these dogs because there are so many strays in the community and that’s where we really see this big problem of distemper spreading,” said Nicole Gitzke of the Bakersfield Animal Care Center.

The key to keeping your dogs safe is to have them vaccinated.

“Like all vaccines, nothing is 100% and if there’s one thing we should all know by now, it’s vaccines,” said Kern County Animal Services Director Nick Cullen. “So no, it’s not 100%, nor is it immediately effective. Different dogs have different times to develop antibodies. So having your pets vaccinated doesn’t protect them 100% against parvo. or distemper immediately.

If you think your pet is sick or has distemper, there’s still time to act. Call your veterinarian immediately to have them checked.

“Distemper in dogs, early symptoms mimic a raspatory infection,” Cullen said. “So your dog might start out with maybe a runny nose, a cough, might progress to some congestion.”

The Bakersfield Animal Care Center says there are dogs that aren’t sick and still need homes. Reducing the number of people in the shelter and making space is the centre’s top priority.

Recommendations on how to protect your dogs from distemper

Now, to keep your pets safe, it is recommended to stay away from stray animals that you might encounter on the street. If you bring one home, it could spread the disease to your other pets.

The best solution to keep your dogs safe is to have them vaccinated. But even with a vaccination, you still need to be careful and keep them away from other sick animals.

“You always want to be careful, especially if you have a puppy,” Cullen said. “Yeah, you might have a vaccine on board. Now is not the time to take your dog to a dog park for sniffing. You want to be careful there. There are many diseases there. Parvo and Distemper are not new, they have been around for a very, very long time. Take great care with your pets, especially in Kern County where we see such widespread cases of distemper and parvo.

If you suspect your dog has distemper or is showing symptoms such as a runny nose, boogers, or a cough, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

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