Canine distemper puts a halt on dog adoptions at Farmington shelter

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FARMINGTON, N.M. — One New Mexico animal shelter has been in an uphill battle against a virus that is often deadly to four-legged friends. 

Farmington Regional Animal Welfare Director, Stacie Voss, said a spike in Canine Distemper cases has forced the shelter to make some difficult decisions.

“Canine Distemper starts as an upper respiratory virus, but it can also affect their digestive and nervous system,” Voss said. “I think the survival rate is about 50% but once you start hitting neurologic signs it gets a lot tougher after that.”

Causing oozing eyes, runny nose, to lasting symptoms like twitches and seizures. Voss noted that it doesn’t help that it’s highly contagious. 

“It’s spread airborne which is also sometime why it’s so hard to control it also has a really long incubation period they can be exposed and not show any signs until about two weeks later,” said Voss. 

Making it hard to spot who has Canine Distemper.

“It’s always because a sick animal has come in here to the shelter and unfortunately the disease has spread before we realize what’s going on,” Voss said.

Now, the shelter is making some difficult decisions.

“We lost about 30 dogs in September and 30 dogs in October. So when November hit and we still had problems, we decided we need to take more drastic steps and that’s why we shut down any dog intakes or dog adoptions,” said Voss.

While they work to fight the outbreak.

“Whenever our dogs show signs, we try to isolate them, and we have been sending out swabs for testing,” Voss added. “Then the dogs that are positive we then have euthanized, we deep clean areas that no longer contain dogs, and we just really use PPE and educate the staff on how not to be part of the spread of the disease.”

Voss said they are cautiously optimistic that dog adoptions can resume next week, however, one new dog started coughing yesterday and that could throw a wrench into everything.