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WSVMA Advisory – Hurricane animals being relocated near you?

  |   Animal Health

We are all aware of the great misfortunes experienced in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and how huge numbers of Texans are starting to return to their homes to begin rebuilding their lives. And now Florida and parts of the Southeast are facing new hurricane threats.

Disaster relief efforts are in full swing, and one of many efforts currently is the re-location of large numbers of shelter animals from or near the hurricane zone out of Texas, Florida and neighboring states’ shelters. This primarily is to make room for pets of victims of the hurricane to be cared for closer to home.  As this translocation and adoption of primarily dogs and cats occurs, we want you and your staff to be aware and to consider a few things to protect yourselves and the animals you work with.

We anticipate the majority of the animals relocating to our state will be accompanied by the appropriate paper work, have received the required care, vaccinations, and treatment if needed prior to their traveling here.

However, as you are aware animals from other regions of the country could potentially host disease causing organisms as well as ecto-parasites and internal parasites that we don’t often see here, some of which are capable of carrying a number of disease causing organisms for animals and humans as well. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a veterinarian from the Southeast posted the following (slightly edited) message on Facebook describing disease challenges for dogs and cats in the region:

Some helpful information to share with members of the veterinary community:  dogs are being evacuated from Houston to other states all over the USA. We were in the midst of an outbreak of H3N2 when Harvey hit. We were also seeing several cases of parvovirus each month. Also, 80% of the dogs over the age of 6 months in our area test positive for heartworms if they have not been on prevention. We also have a lot of leptospirosis, and heterobilharzia here. Add in the occasional case of pythiosis, histoplasmosis and coccidiomycosis. Finally, there have been confirmed cases of Chagas disease in the areas that are being evacuated. Unfortunately all of that is now being spread across the country. I am afraid that cases may go undiagnosed if veterinarians don’t know to look for them.

Another veterinarian reported that ticks are very common and cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, often with ocular manifestation, are also seen in that area of the country.

In this age of rapid and often long distance travel by our clients, their pets, and in this case animals relocating into our region, it’s always good to ask if the pet you are about to examine is a local or translocated pet.

If you become aware that a pet owner bringing a pet in to see you is the proud forever owner (or foster parent) of a pet that made its way here from other regions of our country, be sure to discuss potential disease issues that may accompany their pet from its previous life elsewhere and encourage them to observe the pet closely for signs of illness and to seek veterinary care immediately if they do.

Use this as an opportunity to review and remember your hospital infection control practices and staff personal protective equipment protocols.

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By Dr. Ron Wohrle, Washington State Public Health Veterinarian