Last updated: August 23. 2013 11:06AM - 237 Views

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LIMA — The Allen County Dog Warden’s Office will hold a free vaccination clinic Monday after a number of canine deaths believed to be from canine distemper.

Fourteen dogs in a one-mile area of West Kibby Street and Harrison Avenue have been dropped off at the facility and died in the last three weeks. Dog Warden Julie Shellhammer said only one was tested and confirmed, but others had symptoms of distemper.

“We want to prevent this from continuing to spread,” she said.

The office, in conjunction with local veterinarians, will offer free vaccinations from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at Cook Park, Michael Street and Prospect Avenue. Boehringer Ingelheim donated 100 vaccines.

Distemper is a viral disease that is highly contagious. About 50 percent of dogs with it survive. Puppies are especially susceptible to contract the disease and have a more difficult time surviving, local veterinarian April Shattuck said.

“It is a virus, a lot like the flu. You can’t do anything to treat it, just treat the symptoms and hope they can get through it,” she said. “Mostly the ones who are not going to make it are the puppies. They just are not strong enough to fight it off.”

Dogs early on experience fever and runny eyes and nose and are lethargic. That can progress to coughing, some vomiting and diarrhea and then potential seizures. The vaccine for the disease begins when a dog is 6 to 8 weeks old. The problem comes from people not getting their dogs vaccinated, Shellhammer said.

The dog warden’s office will remain closed for adoptions for at least another week. People bringing in pets are asked to call 419-223-8528 ahead of time so staff can meet them outside and assess the dog. Precautions are in place for anyone coming through the building.

Shellhammer said the nearly 30 dogs there have been vaccinated and evaluated.

“Everybody appears to be healthy,” she said, adding that the dog park located behind the office is safe and open.

The problem came to light after the Humane Society of Allen County took 31 dogs from the shelter last month. Some started showing signs of distemper within a week, meaning they contracted the disease two to three weeks earlier.

Michael Ley, acting director and board president, said the facility has the ability to quarantine a room and shut off that part of the building. It allows the humane society to remain open without concern of spreading the disease.

Raccoons are also are potential carriers of the disease. Bob O’Connor, chief ranger with the Johnny Appleseed Metropolitan Park District, said it can be passed from wildlife to dogs and vice versa. Ferrets can also get the disease.

People are not at risk, but Bill Kelly, of the Allen County Health Department, said distemper symptoms are similar to those of rabies. Kelly urges people to avoid unfamiliar animals and monitor children around animals.

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