Saturday, March 10, 2018 by Jessica Dolores
Dog owners in Wisconsin are on their toes after a rare and deadly respiratory infection left two dogs in an animal shelter dead. The dogs that lived in Ozaukee, caught strep zoo, a fatal infection that in rare cases, can spread to humans.
Strep zoo, or streptococcus zooepidemicus, is a bacterial infection which “is characterised by sudden onset of clinical signs including pyrexia, dyspnoea and haemorrhagic nasal discharge.”
The staff of the Wisconsin Human Society (WHS) campus where the dogs lived, had to euthanize the infected animals after they failed to respond to treatment. WHS also decided to limit the spread of the disease by not accepting dogs from the public in two areas where the sick animals are found — for now.
Strep zoo may not hog the headlines, but it shouldn’t be taken lightly. It kills dogs and and ruins businesses. A humane society in Kentucky has announced that it will shut down for two weeks to “clean and quarantine” its area after a dog got infected with strep zoo. The 14-day closure means the group can’t receive or have animals adopted.
Strep zoo can infect the air, and spread its deadly effects through body fluids or contaminated surfaces.
According to the WHS, symptoms in infected animals include coughing up blood, nasal discharge, vomiting, and labored breathing. Strep zoo is treatable with antibiotics. But like most diseases, animals only respond favorably if the disease is controlled in its infancy.
But this is no reason to be complacent. WHS warns that strep zoo can strike without warning and cause sudden death.
The disease finds its breeding ground in animal shelters because the population of dogs living close together is big. This makes them more prone to infections, and allows for the easier spread of the contagious disease.
Strep zoo has killed seven dogs in 10 days in an animal shelter near Milwaukee. It also killed a dozen dogs in a Miami shelter.
There are more alarming statistics. In 2014, the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London noted that 2007 saw over a thousand dogs suffering or dying from haemorrhagic pneumonia caused by Streptococcus zooepidemicus at one rehoming center in California.
The latest update talks about a possible outbreak in Arizona, where over 30 dogs showed strep zoo symptoms in one of the shelters.
No wonder the disease has become a cause for concern in the veterinary circles.
The Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD) Group at the Royal Veterinary College studied the disease and asked dog owners and vets to recognize the signs of the disease before it gets out of control.
Should human owners and handlers of dogs with strep zoo fear for their health?
So far, at least one person was reported getting the illness from a dog in Ireland eight years ago. The case could be isolated. So the alarm bells have not been sounded yet.
But those who are in close touch with horses, and those who take unpasteurized dairy, should be extra careful. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that humans can catch the disease from these sources. (Related: Kissing your puppy could send you to the hospital; CDC says virus is spreading.)