A Middle Tennessee animal shelter is putting pet adoptions on hold for the next two weeks after five of its dogs came down with a deadly illness.
Now, every dog at the Williamson County Animal Control and Adoption Center is under quarantine after workers there confirmed one of the animals had distemper.
"It's a canine virus. It's not transmittable to people or to cats. It's carried by dogs, foxes, raccoons - that kind of stuff," said shelter director Doug Brightwell.
Distemper is also highly contagious and usually spreads through the air. Affected dogs can develop a fever, lose their appetite and have a discharge from their nose and eyes.
The virus ultimately attacks the brain and puts the animal at risk for serious infections.
"It's pretty rough once an animal gets infected with it," Brightwell said.
Shelter workers have a pretty good guess of how the virus made it into the shelter.
"We had a dog, actually several dogs, picked up in a group in a rural area. The first dog to get sick was one of those dogs. Then all the dogs in that group got sick," Brightwell said.
Unfortunately, there's no easy way to treat the illness in a shelter, so five dogs had to be put down.
Workers are now keeping a close eye on other animals for the next two weeks, which is the incubation period for any new cases to appear.
"If no new cases break within that 14 days, then we'll reopen for adoptions," Brightwell said.
The virus isn't a concern for cats, so adoptions in that part of the shelter are continuing as usual.
Shelter staff have also scrubbed down the building to make it safe for any new animals that arrive.
"We are being extra cautious. We are cleaning everything in the building multiple times," Brightwell said.
Officials caution that any dog adopted from the shelter between March 4 and March 22 could be at a slight risk for distemper. Pet owners who notice any signs of upper respiratory infections in their dog should take the animal to a veterinarian.
Dogs coming into the shelter are vaccinated against the virus.
Adoptions will resume when the quarantine ends April 5. Shelter officials are also asking people who need to surrender pets to wait until that date, if possible.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.