published Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Fear of canine parvovirus quarantines Walker County Animal Shelter

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    Chihuahua mix Killer, left, and poodle mix Cooper, sniff each other at the Walker County Civic Center.
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The Walker County Animal Shelter is under quarantine until Monday because of a suspected outbreak of canine parvovirus that has killed a handful of dogs.

Shelter manager Alison Smith said two dogs from separate sources came into the shelter a week ago looking healthy and were dead within 48 hours.

"We have never shut down before," Smith said of the shelter in the Chicka- mauga, Ga., area.

The strain of virus was so virulent that she felt the quarantine was needed, she said.

Canine parvovirus isn't transmitted to humans; the quarantine is meant to prevent people from passing the virus from a shelter animal to a dog at home. Shelter employees also are watching the shelter dogs to make sure no others succumb.

"You're trying to make sure no other animals are sick," county coordinator David Ashburn said.

Shelter employees are using an especially strong disinfectant to clean the facility, he said.

The county shelter, located at 5488 N. Marbletop Road, still is accepting dogs brought in by animal control officers, Ashburn said. They're segregated from the general population.

Smith didn't have the dead dogs tested for parvovirus. But she's confident that's what killed them based on her 22 years of experience as a veterinarian's assistant and the fact that the dead dogs released copious amounts of bloody stool, a distinctive symptom of parvovirus.

A LaFayette animal control officer last Tuesday brought in two healthy-looking, 5-month-old Labrador mix dogs that had been infected. Then a man brought in three healthy-looking -- but infected -- puppies last Tuesday that had been dropped off the night before at his home.

Smith urged dog owners to make sure their pets' parvovirus vaccination shots are current.

Parvovirus affects the digestive system and the heart. The most common clinical symptoms that shelters see are varying degrees of vomiting, foul-smelling diarrhea that can be very bloody, loss of appetite, fever, weakness, depression and dehydration, according to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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