What we know about the bacteria that killed 2 dogs at SCRAPS

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. – A bacteria called Streptococcus Zooepidemicus, or Strep Zoo, made its way into the SCRAPS shelter recently. It killed two dogs in the last week and a half.

Now, the shelter is closed for the next two weeks as it cleans and disinfects the shelter to keep the bacteria from spreading.

SCRAPS is a place where they protect and take care of animals.

Director Lindsey Soffes says it’s devastating this happened to them and their animals.

“I certainly speak for myself and the entire team here, we are here because we want to protect animals and we want to help the folks who care for them,” Soffes said. “So, seeing not only animals lose their lives, but recognizing the potential risk to others in our care and in our community, it’s about as scary as it gets.”

Both dogs, Bailey and Riley, died just within a week of each other. After the unexpected deaths, Soffes sent their bodies to Washington State University to get tested. In the meantime, Soffes reached out to the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine for help. They specifically reached out to Dr. Cynda Crawford, the director of Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program.

Having the Strep Zoo bacteria go through a shelter can be very concerning. Crawford says it can spread through the air or through the touching of common surfaces.

Crawford says the bacteria can infect many different animals including cows, horses, sheep, dogs and cats. Strep Zoo could rarely be passed on to humans.

Strep Zoo is also an uncommon infection in dogs, Crawford said.

“We also don’t know why the bacteria, in this case, say infect a dog and not cause disease and the same bacteria that infect another dog and causes a lethal disease,” Crawford said. “We do not know the factors that predispose dogs to infection, number one, and number two, why this bacteria is very virulent in some dogs and does not cause a problem in others.”

When a dog gets infected, it can be asymptomatic, like Bailey and Riley were. However, if a dog shows symptoms, it can include coughing, nasal discharge, fever and retching, which could often be mistaken for throwing up.

Crawford says the bacteria can cause bleeding into the lungs and will fill up their airways.

With 65 dogs in the shelter as of Saturday afternoon, Soffes says they are treating all of them with antibiotics, the best practice according to Crawford. The antibiotics could work within three days, but the recommendation is to use them for five days to a week.

“That is far quicker, provides blanket protection, and is something the shelter can afford to do to protect the other dogs in a very timely manner,” Crawford said. “So, if some of the dogs are infected, the bacteria will be eliminated very quickly before it causes a potentially fatal infection.”

Crawford says Strep Zoo can be contained and eliminated if the infection is found quickly, which she says SCRAPS did.

Soffes is calling every pet owner who adopted or came to reclaim their animals within the last half of November to inform them about what happened. They’re also giving out antibiotics to those animals.

“We will do everything we can to ensure that we have the least risk of reoccurrence. We need folks to recognize that these risks will pop up and that we will work through them together,” Soffes said. “We’re sorry to the community that we’re going through this. This is the last type of news we’d want to have to share. It’s certainly the last thing that we want to see for our animals.”

Soffes is asking people to limit bringing in animals and find other alternatives if possible. That includes checking for a chip or seeing if another shelter can take them in. But, if not, they can bring them in.

Anyone with questions should reach out to SCRAPS at 509-477-2532 or SCRAPS@spokanecounty.org.

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