Approximately 4 million dogs enter animal shelters each year.1 Most of these dogs are either collected as presumed unowned free-roaming strays or are relinquished as unwanted pets and may not have received optimal preventive health care prior to admission to the shelter. Once inside shelters, dogs may be intensively housed under stressful conditions. The background and housing of dogs entering shelters creates situations where dogs are at risk for introducing infectious pathogens of canine and zoonotic importance and may also acquire new infections.2
Quarantine of new arrivals, infectious disease screening, segregation of specific subpopulations, disease surveillance, isolation of diseased dogs, and effective vaccination are some effective tools for the control of many infectious diseases within intensively housed dogs.2 However, many animal shelters have resource limitations, including inadequate staffing, funding, facilities, and technical expertise, that make it difficult to implement these optimal strategies. Practical healthcare protocols in shelters aim to provide protection against the most prevalent or important infections and balance other competing needs in the agency.
Diarrhea can be associated with shelter factors such as stress and dietary change in addition to contagious infections, such as parvovirus, coronavirus, and distemper virus.3–5 Infectious enteropathogens such as Giardia, Salmonella, hookworms, and roundworms may also be shed by subclinically infected dogs, inhibiting clinical disease surveillance.6–8 We are aware of only 1 report7 in which diarrhea in shelter dogs was correlated with identification of enteropathogens. In that report,7 fecal samples were collected at various times during the dogs’ stay in the shelter, so it was not possible to determine which infections were present at the time of admission to the shelter and which were shelter-acquired infections. The purpose of the study reported here was to identify the frequency of parasitic, bacterial, and viral enteropathogens in dogs at the time of admission to an animal shelter, to identify risk factors for infection, and to correlate enteropathogen infection with the presence of diarrhea.
Canine distemper virus
Canine enteric coronavirus
Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin A gene
Alachua County Animal Services, Gainesville, Fla.
Duramune Max 5, Fort Dodge Animal Health, Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Bronchi-Shield III, Fort Dodge Animal Health, Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Strongid, Pfizer, New York, NY.
Frontline, Merial, Lyon, France.
Fecal Scoring System, Nestle Purina, St Louis, Mo.
Fecasol Solution, Evsco Pharmaceuticals, Buena, NJ.
Fecalyzer, Evsco Pharmaceuticals, Buena, NJ.
SNAP Giardia Antigen Test, IDEXX Laboratories Inc, Westbrook, Me.
Package insert, SNAP Giardia Antigen Test, IDEXX Laboratories Inc, Westbrook, Me.
SNAP Parvo Test, IDEXX Laboratories Inc, Westbrook, Me.
Package insert, SNAP Parvo Antigen Test, IDEXX Laboratories Inc, Westbrook, Me.
RealPCR Canine Diarrhea Panel, IDEXX Laboratories Inc, West Sacramento, Calif.
Kissimmee Diagnostic Laboratory, Division of Animal Industry, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Kissimmee, Fla.
Epi Info, version 3.5.1, CDC, Atlanta, Ga.
Recombitek rDistemper, Merial, Duluth, Ga.
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20 Companion Animal Parasite Council. CAPC guidelines: controlling internal and external parasites in U.S. dogs and cats. Available at: www.capcvet.org. Accessed May 15, 2010.
21 Lappin MR & Spindel M. Bacterial and protozoal disease. In: Miller L, Hurley K, eds. Infectious disease management in animal shelters. Ames, Iowa: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009;223–240.