Connection made: Distemper and wild animals -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Connection made: Distemper and wild animals

More cases of a deadly animal virus are showing up in shelters around South Georgia. And state officials are also seeing more cases of distemper out in the wild.

The Moultrie Colquitt County Humane Society is the latest shelter dealing with an outbreak of a highly contagious and often deadly disease, called the Canine Distemper Virus. The shelter is under quarantine right now and an estimated 40 animals have been exposed.

Drew Zellner, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, says they've also seen an increase in distemper among wildlife.

"Probably within the past 6, 7 weeks or so we've noticed a number of increased cases of distemper in foxes and raccoons," said Zellner.

Zellner says the increase of distemper at shelters in South Georgia and the high number they're seeing are likely related.

"Canine distemper is communicable between dogs and raccoons and foxes are in the dog family. And so it's the same virus that's traveling between those three species. So it certainly makes sense that there would be a relationship there," said Zellner.

Earlier this week we told you about confirmed cases at shelters in Albany and Cairo.

State officials say it's concerning, but not uncommon.

"These animals come in close contact with each other and therefore it's very likely to spread whatever kind of diseases there are. So I don't think there's any one group of animals with distemper that's ranging around in Southwest Georgia. I just think that perhaps the vaccination hasn't been as good as it could be," said Dr. Robert Cobb, the Georgia Dept. of Agriculture State Veterinarian.

There's no cure for distemper, authorities say the best way to protect your pets is vaccinations. Experts expect the wildlife distemper outbreak to run its course over the next few weeks.

The Albany Humane Society remains closed. The shelter in Cairo is back open.

Officials at the Moultrie shelter would not confirm what is happening to the dogs that have been exposed.

The cats at the Moultrie Colquitt County Humane Society have not been exposed and cannot contract Canine Distemper Virus.

Feline Distemper has similar symptoms to CDV, like vomiting, diarrhea and a loss of interest in food. It's equally serious, but it's not contagious to dogs.

"Feline distemper is a totally different virus and there's no species cross over. In feline distemper is called panleukopenia, is the name for feline distemper," said Trey Newell, DVM with the Westover Animal Hospital.

Canine Distemper can be transmitted from foxes and raccoons to dogs.


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