The Connecticut Department of Agriculture has quarantined Meriden's Animal Control kennels due to the presence of a highly contagious and deadly disease for dogs.
At least one dog, possibly more, according to Meriden Police Captain Michael Zakrzewski, has been infected by parvovirus or "parvo," a disease that destroys the intestinal lining of dogs and kills white blood cells – most often causing death.
No dogs can be taken into the kennels at 311 Murdock Ave. and no dogs can be removed from the facility until the quarantine is lifted. It's unknown when that will occur. The DOAG shuttered the facility on Thursday, June 16, and the order says that it can't reopen until 14 days after the last clinical signs of the disease are seen in any of the dogs.
During the quarantine, Animal Control officers will continue to take calls about strays, found and lost animals and relinquished pets, according to Zakrzewski, who oversees the unit, making arrangements for newly impounded dogs to be held off-site.
The Meriden Humane Society, which is housed in a separate part of the same building, is trying to help pick up the slack, according to Director Marlena DiBianco. The Humane Society is not under quarantine, and though it is near-capacity, is taking in dogs and putting them in foster homes with volunteers.
Parvo is common in kennels and can spread like wildfire in locations where many dogs are housed.
"You don’t know when you’re picking these dogs up what dogs have had their shots, what dogs are healthy," Zakrzewski said. "When they bring a dog into the pound that’s infected with it – it subjects all the other animals to getting this."
Zakrzewski did not know the status of the dog or dogs infected, but said that they had been taken to the Meriden Animal Hospital last week.
The disease spreads most quickly by "fecal-oral" transmission – when healthy dogs come into contact with the feces of infected dogs, said Rebecca Saria, a veterinarian with Gold Coast Mobile Veterinary Service out of Milford. Saria was at Meriden's Humane Society Monday to vaccinate some of the facility's animals.
It can also spread through less direct transmission, if fecal particles get on clothes or other items and wind up entering the body – say through the eyes, nose or mouth.
The virus does not for the most part cause harm to other animals, but can cause a rash in humans, particularly children, Saria said.
Dogs under 5 years old are most susceptible to the disease. Signs include listlessness, profuse diarrhea, vomiting, and blood in excrement. Parvo dehydrates the animal.
Saria said about 80 percent of dogs with Parvo die, 50 percent of dogs who are given basic treatment die, and about 30 percent of dogs who are given the highest level of hospitalized care – with blood transfusions and anti-viral medications – will die. Dogs should be taken to a veterinarian at the earliest sign of disease.
Protecting your dog
Since Meriden's Animal Control Officers pick up animals from throughout the city, dogs in the community could be infected with Parvo.
Saria said the first step to protecting your dog from the disease is making sure its vaccines are up to date. The disease is easily preventable with a vaccine that most dogs get in combination with a 3- or 4-course distemper shot as puppies, that requires a yearly or three-year booster shot.
Otherwise, she said, don't let the dog play with any other dogs that seem ill. "Particularly any puppies that have diarrhea, vomiting, or are listless," Saria said.
General good hygiene for both humans and dogs is also must. Handwashing is key so that owners don't transmit particles to their dogs, as is cleaning shoes, dog bowls, and other items dogs come in contact with.
Both Animal Control and the Humane Society said they are cleaning their facilities rigorously, with bleach, as per usual. Though the two are located in the same building, Saria said the likelihood of parvo spreading from Animal Control, with all the precautions being taken by both agencies, is slim.