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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Strep zoo’ that killed two dogs at SCRAPS not present in other dogs at shelter, agency says

UPDATED: Sat., Dec. 4, 2021

Riley (left) and Bailey, two mixed breeds, died from a bacterial infection that prompted the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service to close to the public Friday.  (Greg Mason / The Spokesman-Review)
Riley (left) and Bailey, two mixed breeds, died from a bacterial infection that prompted the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service to close to the public Friday. (Greg Mason / The Spokesman-Review)

It’s believed no other dogs at Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS) have contracted the bacterial infection that recently proved fatal to two mixed breeds named Riley and Bailey, said Jared Webley, Spokane County communications manager.

SCRAPS closed to the public Friday. Webley said he anticipates the agency will remain shuttered for around two weeks after the two asymptomatic dogs unexpectedly died.

WSU test results for the dogs indicated the presence of streptococcus zooepidemicus, commonly referred to as “strep zoo,” Webley said.

A SCRAPS news release Friday said the agency is following recommended shelter medicine protocols and best practices informed by veterinary infectious disease experts specialized in shelter medicine at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

SCRAPS has taken preventive, antibiotic treatment for every dog in its care and is in the process of contacting guardians of dogs who have recently left the shelter, according to the announcement.

The bacterial infection is common in animal shelters, and SCRAPS has taken the right steps to keep its remaining canines healthy, said Charlie Powell, spokesperson for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Powell said strep zoo is “extremely contagious” and “extremely deadly” in dogs.

“Anytime you concentrate animal or human populations, the risk for disease increases and the risk for severe illness increases in those animals because they’re in such close proximity of each other,” Powell said.

He said the bacteria causes “hemorrhagic pneumonia,” meaning the dogs bleed into their lungs and airways.

By the time most people realize their dog has strep zoo symptoms, like fever, cough and difficulty breathing, it’s almost too late to begin treatment, Powell said.

“Most people don’t get their animal to the veterinarian fast enough to make the treatment effective,” he said.

There’s no vaccine for the infection.

Powell said strep zoo is most commonly found in dogs and is spread by direct contact, through contact with common surfaces and through the air. He said dogs typically spread it to other dogs; it’s very rare for a dog to infect a human with the bacteria.

Powell said people should immediately bring their dog to a veterinarian if the dog starts coughing, exhibits a fever or has difficulty breathing no matter what the causative agent turns out to be. He said pet owners should not wait and see if symptoms worsen.

Webley said SCRAPS is trying to work with other shelters in the area to find out if they can take strays during the closure.

He added SCRAPS will take in dogs on an emergency basis, but the agency asks for the public’s assistance in reducing animal intake while the shelter is closed.

SCRAPS staff will remain on-site during the closure to assist the community’s needs, according to Friday’s release.

For more information or questions, contact SCRAPS at (509) 477-2532 or SCRAPS@spokanecounty.org.

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