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County shelter quarantined from parvo outbreak

The death of eight dogs due to parvovirus infection resulted in Walker County’s animal shelter being forced to close for a 14-day quarantine period.

The shelter located at 5488 N. Marbletop Road can reopen on Wednesday, Feb. 6, according to shelter manager Alison Smith.

“We do not want to accept animals into the shelter at the present time because of the potential to spread the virus,” she said.

Parvovirus is highly contagious and easily transmitted. The virus usually wracks the digestive system of a dog or wild canine — a fox or coyote — with symptoms that include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, fever, weakness, septic shock and severe dehydration. The illness can affect an animal’s heart and, regardless of symptoms, has about a 90 percent mortality rate if not treated aggressively and quickly.

While immunization against the virus is not expensive, treating an infected animal can be costly and does not guarantee a pet’s survival.

The quarantine was put in place after a female terrier-mix, her puppies and two older pups died or were euthanized after developing symptoms of having parvo during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

The infection is not common to shelters, but is often found in animals that are either surrendered or brought to the facility.

“We are a taxpayer- funded animal control facility and have to accept whatever comes through our gates, regardless of their condition,” Smith said. “We get animals on a daily basis that have never had a proper home, food, water or medication. Those animals are bringing their infections into our shelter.”

The best way to prevent future outbreaks is for dog owners to keep current with annual inoculations, have their pet spayed or neutered and make certain not to allow dogs or other pets to run free.

“It is critical to be a responsible pet owner,” Smith said. “There is no excuse that this happens [introducing parvovirus].”

Email Mike O’Neal at walker@timesfreepress.com

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