A recent outbreak of a deadly disease is affecting northern Manitoba’s dogs, as nearly 100 family pets and strays have already either been killed or infected. While the disease outbreak is currently contained, charity workers believe that it has the potential to spread to other Manitoba communities, “wiping out thousands” of dogs and other wildlife.

Staff from various dog charities in the Moose Lake area report seeing signs of the disease approximately three weeks ago, with up to 40 dog deaths recorded in less than a month. The animals are believed to be infected with Canine distemper, an extremely contagious virus that affects the respiratory, digestive, and nervous systems of animals.

Speaking to CBC News, Katie Powell of the Winnipeg-based Save A Dog Network Canada explained, “The dog will appear sick, looking a little bit lazy with vomiting, diarrhea. In the more severe stages, as the virus takes over the body, there's lots of mucous coming from the nose and eyes."

As the disease progresses, dogs can suffer from seizures, convulsions, and lose the ability to walk and move, which can be very traumatizing for pet-owners.

While canine distemper has been present in Manitoba communities before, animal charity workers say they have never seen such a severe outbreak contained to one single community. That said, the disease has the potential to spread outside of the northern Manitoba area, with the ability to affect thousands of animals.

"It absolutely has the potential to wipe out thousands of dogs," Powell told CBC News, and can also be picked up by coyotes, foxes, wolves, ferrets, skunks, and even raccoons.

Experts believe that the outbreak has stemmed from a lack of affordable veterinary care and vaccinations available in remote communities like Moose Lake. Once present in a community, the outbreak is difficult to control.

To convey the seriousness of the situation in Manitoba, one of the animal charities working to control the outbreak shared a troubling video on their Instagram page. Feed the Furbabies Canada uploaded a video of a dog suffering from the effects of canine distemper, showing the animal to be in discomfort and distress.

Their post reads, “The outbreak of distemper in Moose Lake, Manitoba has been absolutely devastating. Dozens of dogs have died, the disease has spread across the community infecting dozens more, and the wildlife are also infected with it.”

The post goes on to explain that various charities, including Save A Dog Network Canada and Feed The Furbabies Canada, will be heading to Manitoba on the weekend of October 19 and 20, in order to provide help to the animals in need.

Their goal will be to vaccinate dogs that can still be saved and euthanize those that cannot, Powell told CBC News. "Body recovery is a big part of this,” she explained, “Getting the virus out of the community. Any dogs that we do find that have passed away we will be gathering.”

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