Since the beginning of July, workers and animals alike at the In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue in Wylie, Texas have been battling with the debilitating condition of canine distemper among its animal population. A condition that commonly affects dogs, this virus has no cure and typically begins with respiratory and digestive problems. These symptoms can progress quickly, however, and in many cases can cause neurological problems – often leading to seizures that can cause death.
So far, the sanctuary, which houses more than 50 large cats, has already seen six of their animals die from the illness within the last month (five tigers and one lioness) and dozens of other cats are still battling the disease. Although canine distemper has been known to cross into the feline species for over 30 years, there is no vaccination as of yet for the animals. The current vaccinations given to dogs for canine distemper have been found to be unsafe for felines. There is a vaccine given to ferrets that has shown to be safe for the animals, but they appear to be ineffective in prevention. In fact, the ferret vaccines have been given to some of the non-symptomatic big cats at the sanctuary in light of the recent epidemic, but all who received it still managed to contract the disease (five of the six cats that died within the last month received this vaccination).
Workers at In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue have been working with a variety of scientists to put an end to the sickness within their walls, one of whom is Sharman Hoppes, zoological medicine teacher at Texas A&M University (TAMU). Hoppes spoke of the risk of recurrence of the illness in the big cats in Fox News: “Based on dogs, there’s certainly the risk of a recurrent disease later on in life.” Experts believe that the virus was likely brought into the sanctuary by wild racoons getting into the lions’ an tigers’ outdoor cages.
Photo from http://www.foxnews.com