Sudden dog deaths in shelter population

April 13, 2012

It is really disturbing how people that easily get infatuated with a cuddly and cute puppy will as easily fall out of love when the dog gets a little older and starts to manifest annoying behaviors. The initial fascination will be over when the dog gnawed the favorite loafer or when the pet fails to learn where it should do its business. The dog will be abandoned. The abandoned dog will become a stray – stray dogs are great contributors to the overpopulation of homeless pets. It is a good thing that concerned animal lovers have made a gigantic effort of saving these animals through the establishment of animal shelters and through the formation of rescue groups. Millions of homeless animals find refuge in these animal shelters. In spite of the efforts of animal lovers, these shelters would become too crowded when the number of animals being rescued is bigger than the number of animals being adopted. Animals that were not adopted have to be put to sleep.

Shelters would be a safe environment for the homeless dogs but because of overpopulation, the possibility of canine disease breakout is rather high. The sudden deaths of dogs (and cats) in shelters have become a growing concern of animal lovers. The over population of animals is expected to have significant impact on the quality of life of the animals. Shelter personnel would not be cruel to animals as some would even volunteer their services. However, concerns related to the health of the animals would crop up due to limited space and resources. Sudden deaths is common in the kind of population animal shelters have as the outbreak of life threatening contagious canine disease cannot be prevented.

Disease-carrying bacteria and viruses can easily spread in areas where dogs closely congregate. Parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis, canine influenza and kennel cough are highly contagious diseases. Parvovirus attacks the intestines so that the dog would have blood in the vomitus and in the feces. Severe attack of the virus can cause the death of dogs in 24 hours. Parvovirus outbreaks can occur regularly as the virus that remains in the ground for years can easily infect dogs. Distemper is a highly contagious and often fatal disease that affects dogs of all ages. The virus attacks the dog’s nervous system and a dog that managed to survive the disease may have a permanently damaged brain. Kennel cough and canine influenza both affects the dog’s respiratory system. Kennel cough is especially common in over populated shelters. The virus causing canine influenza has a short incubation period. In 3 to 4 days the dog would run a temperature, be lethargic and anorexic. This disease can progress to acute hemorrhagic pneumonia and the affected dog can die suddenly when blood comes out from the nose and mouth. Vaccination is the best line of defense for these diseases. Shelters have vaccination programs but newcomers that are not yet vaccinated may be carriers of the diseases-causing bacteria and viruses.

The outbreak of diseases that can result to sudden deaths of dogs can be controlled. Sick dogs must be quickly identified and must be isolated from the other dogs. As the infectious agents can be airborne, it would be much better if the sick dog is isolated in a room with separate air supply. Shelter personnel must handle the dog with the usual precautionary measures. To prevent the spread of infection personnel has to use a different set of protective clothing and cleaning supplies in the isolation room. The spread of this life threatening diseases that cause sudden deaths in shelters have become the current concern Animal Rights Groups especially when shelters have adopted the No Kill program. The over population in shelters have ballooned even more. If nothing is done about the set up more dogs will be lost to these contagious diseases.

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