Oak Ridge trying to prevent outbreak of deadly canine virus

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A contagious and deadly virus surfaced at an animal shelter.

Distemper is known for spreading quickly. And officials are now trying to act even faster to prevent an outbreak.

Oak Ridge Police confirmed two cases of Canine Distemper. They also believe a third dog -- adopted from the Oak Ridge Animal Shelter in January -- may be infected.

The shelter has been shut down since Thursday afternoon. Workers are sanitizing the facility and testing dogs who show symptoms.

Veterinarian Rick Hinson, with the Oak Ridge Veterinary Hospital, said infected dogs show symptoms ranging from flu-like to Parkinson's disease.

"And then the virus goes to the brain or central nervous system. Almost always those animals die or are euthanized," he said. "So its very serious."

He recommends all puppies be vaccinated - but said even vaccinating an older dog can be effective.

"There really is no treatment once they get it, other than supportive care," Hinson said.

Dog owner Phyllis Owens has been extra careful the last few days, keeping her corgi, Tracy, away from stray dogs - and keeping a close eye on her at the dog park.

"We don't like all the dogs drinking after her. We bring her her own jug of water and bowl," Owens said.

The shelter staff are vaccinating all new dogs that are brought in and separating dogs who show symptoms. They plan to reopen next week.

The city does not have any reported cases of Feline Distemper. The disease cannot be spread from dogs to cats.

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