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

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

Unity K9 Express Rescue and Kern County Animal Care Services have also been hit and are forced to resort to euthanizing their infected dogs as well.

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 body fluids. But the disease can’t be spread to humans.

More than 100 dogs have been euthanized from the city and county shelters, including from Unity K9 Express Rescue. The issue is distemper, the canine disease that’s been spreading across the county.

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

The answer to keep your dogs safe is to get them vaccinated.

“Like all vaccines nothing is 100 percent and if there is anything that we should all know about now a days is vaccines,” Nick Cullen the director from the Kern County Animal Services said. “So no, it’s not 100 percent, it’s also not effective immediately. Different dogs have different times it takes to build up antibodies. So getting your animals vaccinated does not get them 100 percent against parvo or distemper immediately.”

If you think your pet is sick or has distemper there’s still time to act. Just call your vet immediately to get them checked.

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

The Bakersfield Animal Care Center says, there are dogs that are not sick and are still needing a home. Decreasing the numbers in the shelter and making room is the center’s top priority.

Recommendations on how to keep your dogs safe from distemper

Now to keep your animals safe it’s recommended to stay away from strays you might come across on the street. If you take one home it could spread the disease to your other pets.

The best answer to keeping your dogs safe is to get them vaccinated. But even with a vaccination you should still be careful and keep them away from other sick animals.

“You always want to be cautious especially if you have a puppy,” Cullen said. “Yeah you might have a vaccine on board. It’s not time to go take your dog out to a dog park to go sniffing around. You want to be cautious out there. There are a lot of illnesses out there. Parvo and Distemper are not new they’ve been around for a very very long time. Take a lot of precautions with your animals especially in Kern county where we see such prevalent cases of distemper and parvo.”

If you think your dog has distemper or is showing symptoms like a runny nose, eye boogers or cough please reach out to your vet immediately.

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