Cincinnati Animal CARE says canine distemper virus found in Hamilton County

On April 3, Cincinnati Animal CARE confirmed two cases of Canine Distemper Virus in stray dogs that recently arrived at the Hamilton County animal shelter in Northside. According the agency, “Out of an extreme abundance of caution, we have made the decision to restrict shelter intake and outcome activity for dogs effective immediately.”

Cincinnati Animal CARE has issued a canine distemper virus advisory for Hamilton County.

Cincinnati Animal CARE is consulting with the best local veterinary teams for individual animal care as needed and is under the guidance of leading veterinary experts who specialize in shelter CDV out of the University of Florida. We are implementing best practice protocols to minimize the spread of the illness in the county shelter and in the community. It is important to note CDV is NOT transmissible from dogs to humans or dogs to cats.

What is CDV?

CDV is a contagious virus that primarily affects unvaccinated dogs and puppies. It can cause a variety of symptoms including fever, cough, eye and nose discharge, GI distress, lethargy, and swelling of the paw pads. Due to the severity and contagiousness of this and other canine illnesses, all dogs are routinely vaccinated upon arrival in the shelter against CDV – it is the “D” in the “DHPP” vaccine. When previously unvaccinated animals come into the shelter and are already ill or the virus is incubating, the vaccine will not be effective. CDV is a virus that can lie dormant for up to two weeks. Studies have confirmed that more than 50 percent of strays coming into shelters across the country have no protective immunity to CDV and are likely unvaccinated. 

Infectious diseases of any kind in our shelter are taken seriously and treated aggressively while we exercise the highest levels of caution to mitigate the risk of further spread.

What does this mean for our community?

1. Cincinnati Animal CARE will not be accepting any dog intakes on-site until further notice. All stray dogs must go through the Hamilton County Dog Warden office at 513-541-7387. CAC cannot dispatch officers via Facebook Messenger or email, you must call 513-541-7387 for assistance. Additionally, the Hamilton County Animal Shelter cannot accept any owner-surrendered pets at this time. All animal emergencies must go through Hamilton County Dog Wardens. Cats will continue to enter and exit the shelter as normal.

2. All incoming dogs from this point forward and until further notice will be housed in an off-site facility while the county shelter undergoes ongoing, daily deep cleanings.

3. Current population of dogs at the county shelter in Northside will be quarantined until medically cleared and all dog adoptions at this facility will be paused until further notice. Adoptions will resume as soon as possible at the Pet Adoption Center in Pleasant Ridge and our off-site facility where new intakes are being housed.

4. CAC will maintain our strict one dog per kennel policy to minimize dog-to-dog interactions. The organization operates in a building without adequate medical quarantining facilities, so minimizing dog interactions as much as possible will be crucial.

5. CDV cannot spread from dog to human or dog to cat. Kitty City is a separate wing of the Northside Shelter and will remain open for cat adoptions and fostering.

What can you do to help?

1. Keep animals out of the shelter. If you find a lost dog and it is safe to do so – keep it in the neighborhood as long as possible. Not only will this reduce its risk of exposure to viruses, it increases the chances of an animal being reunited with its family. The further an animal gets from where it was found, the odds of it being reunited with its family drop from up to 90% down to 17%. CAC will continue to post all stray dogs as they are picked up by Dog Wardens and will continue to assist the community with reuniting found animals through social media.

If you find a stray dog, call Hamilton County Dog Wardens to file a “found” report and please do everything you can to keep the dog in that neighborhood. Ask neighbors, friends, family members, or other local private shelters and rescues. Hang posters in the neighborhood with large photos, post on NextDoor and community Facebook pages, and check our social media pages and for lost/found animals. CAC needsthe community’s help here to keep dogs contained. The more stray dogs, and the longer they are roaming, the more chances they have of contracting the virus.

2. Vaccinate your pets! These cases did not originate at the Hamilton County Shelter. This has come in through animals from the community or surrounding areas. Vaccines save lives and a decrease in pet vaccinations are likely related to an uptick in canine viruses that are not usually found in this region making their way into our community.

3. If your resident adult dogs are fully vaccinated, this should not be something that disrupts your day-to-day life as a pet parent. If your resident pets are not fully vaccinated, please do not take them into communal spaces until they are: dog parks, breweries, etc. These activities should be reserved for vaccinated and spayed/neutered animals.

4. Help get animals out of the shelter by adopting! The Hamilton County shelter’s Pet Adoption Center at 3262 Highland Ave. in Pleasant Ridge will remain open Saturdays & Sundays from 10am-2pm beginning April 15 & 16. Dogs available for adoption at the Pet Adoption Center are dogs who have been living in foster homes since before this virus entered the shelter and are completely asymptomatic. Our off-site facility in Northside currently housing new intakes will open soon for adoptions and fostering as well. We will provide updates on these locations as soon as a plan is finalized. 

According to CAC, “We wish we did not have to share this news, but transparency with our community is non-negotiable. You have a right to know that CDV has been discovered within our community as this is the result of unvaccinated animals roaming Hamilton County. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of vaccinating your pets.

During this period, Kitty City and the main shelter lobby will remain open seven days a week from 1-6 p.m. for cat adoptions/fosters, license sales and renewals, and to answer any questions.

Hamilton County Dog Wardens remain available 24/7 for animal emergencies. 513-541-7387

About Cincinnati Animal CARE 

Cincinnati Animal CARE is Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s only open-intake, no-kill animal shelter and the county’s sole provider of Dog Warden (animal control) services. Cincinnati Animal CARE envisions a community where all animals are valued, protected, and have a safe space to call home.

Learn more at

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