Distemper case leads to quarantine for City of Vicksburg Animal Shelter

Published 6:42 pm Thursday, May 18, 2023

The City of Vicksburg Animal Shelter instituted a self-imposed 21-day quarantine for its dog population Thursday after a litter of puppies tested positive for distemper.

Kacie Lindsey, Executive Director of the shelter, said Thursday evening that the distemper cases were linked to a litter of 10 puppies the shelter took in last week from the south side of Vicksburg.

“On Monday, they started showing symptoms of what I suspected was distemper,” Lindsey said. “I took them to the vet, who tested them for it and sent the tests to the lab. They came back positive.”

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Lindsey said she’s been on “high alert” for distemper for several months after multiple distemper-positive raccoons were spotted in residential areas around Vicksburg. She said the puppies most likely got distemper from a raccoon near where they were picked up by shelter staff, as those who retrieved the puppies reported a dead raccoon in the yard near the puppies.

During the quarantine period, shelter staff will cease intake and adoption of dogs and will monitor the current population for symptoms of distemper, which mimics the common cold. Symptoms start out with extremely runny eyes (usually green in color), runny nose (usually green in color), coughing, fever and lethargy, and will eventually lead to neurological symptoms including seizures and death. The disease has an extremely high fatality rate and is not curable.

Friday will be “all hands on deck,” Lindsey said, as shelter staff and volunteers band together for a deep-clean of the facility.

If any dogs test positive for distemper during the 21-day quarantine period, the shelter will be forced to start over with a new quarantine period and another deep clean.

Fortunately, the distemper scare will have no effect on the shelter’s feline residents. Cats are highly unlikely to contract distemper, and Lindsey said she consulted with four local veterinarians to ensure intake and adoption of cats would be a safe practice during this time.

“The chances are so slim for our cats to become infected,” she said. “Four different vets confirmed they’d be okay with taking in and adopting out cats, so I feel good about that.”

During the quarantine, Lindsey said animal control will still respond to aggressive dog calls, but those dogs will be immediately taken to the vet for boarding and will not go to the shelter facility. She also encouraged residents to call animal control at 601-636-6982 to report any raccoons showing distemper symptoms.