Officials Issue Warning After Deadly Distemper Outbreak in St. Louis

Distemper outbreak

Pet owners in and around St. Louis, Missouri, are being warned in an uptick in the number of deadly distemper cases. The viral disease, which can prove fatal to puppies and un-vaccinated adult dogs, has claimed the lives of 17 dogs at Stray Rescue of St. Louis. On October 29, the rescue agency stated that multiple test results confirmed that there was an outbreak of distemper at their shelter facility.


The rescue organization stated, “We’re taking every preventive measure and not accepting any rescues for the next 30 days while we give our facility the level of care needed as we identify quarantine and treat any dog at risk. Our team of adoption experts is reaching out to those who have adopted recently and are fostering.”

On October 27, the Bi-State Wildlife Hotline of Missouri & Illinois issued an official warning to pet owners in multiple areas to be aware that cases of raccoon distemper are on the rise. It is believed that a dog taken in by Stray Rescue was previously exposed to an infected raccoon, likely starting the deadly outbreak at the shelter.

According to PetMD, the highly contagious canine distemper virus is spread through the air, and by direct or indirect contact. Symptoms of the disease can mirror common “shelter” illnesses, such as Kennel Cough. Dogs suffering from distemper may have red, watery eyes, nasal discharge, fever, lethargy and coughing. As the disease progresses, infected dogs may have seizures, fits and show signs of paralysis.


What can pet owners do to keep their dogs safe? It is critical to keep pets up-to-date with routine vaccinations. Rescue founder, Randy Grimm, stated, “As a community, we will get through this. I ask all St. Louisans to please vaccinate their dogs immediately so we can limit the spread of this heartbreaking disease. Rescuing is what we do, saving lives and making our community a better place to live for all living beings. We will get through this and come out of it even stronger than before.”

Find Stray Rescue of St. Louis here.

Bi-State Wildlife Hotline of Missouri and Illinois on Facebook here.


Penny Eims

Penny is a freelance writer who provided content to her National Dog News column at for 8 years. She is a current contributor to Fido Friendly Magazine, as well as a newly formed website, Pet Rescue Report. Penny is married and she has two rescued German shepherds and two kids.