Strep Zoo Disease in Tucson: What You Need to Know

Strep Zoo (Streptococcus Zooepidemicus) has started making its way around Pima County. Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) of Tucson has identified cases of Strep Zoo that made its way into their facility in December of 2022. This disease often makes its debut in shelters and other animal care facilities where multiple pets are in close contact with one another and is a result of stressful environments and overcrowding. While Strep Zoo has come and gone before, many people are still unaware of the potentially fatal bacterial infection.

PACC is working diligently to contain and eradicate this highly contagious disease and is currently looking for members of the community to provide short-term foster care to assist in their fight as they continue their meticulous and comprehensive treatment of the facility and their at-risk residents. In addition, they are treating all residents with preventative antibiotics, and their new pet waiting period has been extended from 2 weeks to 30 days to ensure the safety of their residents and adoptive families.

What is Streptococcus Equi Zooepidemicus (Strep Zoo)?

Strep Zoo, or Streptococcus Zooepidemicus, is a bacterial respiratory infection that could pose a serious risk to your pet’s health. Strep zoo is a bacterium commonly found in livestock animals, where it doesn’t cause disease. However, if this bacterium infects dogs, it can cause severe and potentially fatal pneumonia.

Who is At Risk of Strep Zoo Disease?

Strep Zoo is common in animal shelters and boarding facilities because of the close contact of pets, not because of poor or unclean living conditions. Much like Kennel Cough, Strep Zoo is spread through the air. Regardless of excessive cleaning and daily sterilization, pets in close contact with the initially infected pet are likely to become infected as well.  In addition, pets may carry this disease without symptoms until it is ‘triggered’ by a stressful event, such as rehoming, which then causes the carrier pet to become ill and triggers pneumonia-like symptoms that could infect neighboring pets.

What Are The Symptoms of Strep Zoo Disease in Dogs?

Some symptoms of Strep Zoo include flu-like symptoms, such as:

  • coughing
  • nasal discharge
  • lethargy/depression
  • blood in throat/mouth/nose
  • labored breathing
  • vomiting

If your pet displays any of these symptoms, we recommend you take them to the vet immediately.

What Else Should Pet Parents Know About Strep Zoo?

Any virus or disease that makes its way through the community can cause fear or panic in pet owners.  While PACC and other facilities have successfully eliminated this threat previously, staying informed and educating yourself on the facts are vital parts of ensuring your pet is kept safe from possible infection.  So, what do you really need to know? 

If your pet spends time around other animals, is a new addition to your family, or is showing signs of illness, here are a few things you should know about Strep Zoo:

  1. Strep Zoo is typically found in horses, but can also cause infections in dogs, cats, cows, sheep, rabbits, goats, pigs, and even humans with weakened immune systems. Unlike some other diseases, this disease can be passed between these animals.

  2. Strep Zoo is highly contagious and is carried in the upper respiratory system. It is spread through respiratory secretions.  These can be contracted through the air or through contact with infected surfaces.

  3. Strep Zoo may not display any symptoms until they are triggered. Because of this, we recommend getting your dog tested for the disease if your pet has spent time in a shelter, dog park, boarding facility, or around other animals outside of the home.

  4. Step Zoo is deadly to dogs because there is no vaccination for this disease. If you have concerns, take your pet to their veterinarian. This infection is responsive to many antibiotics, so early detection and receiving antibiotics as soon as the disease has developed are vital parts of protecting and saving your pet's life.

  5. If you don’t visit PACC, your dogs at home are not likely to catch strep zoo. However, many pets in Tucson and Pima County communities are under-vaccinated. It's important for pet parents to vaccinate all their animals as recommended by a veterinarian. We DO NOT recommend taking your under-vaccinated dogs to public areas as you risk exposure to strep zoo.

Knowing what to watch for and what action to take are vital parts of keeping your pets safe. If you want additional information on the current status of Pima Animal Care Center and the actions being taken to prevent the spread of this disease, or if you want to help save lives by becoming a short-term foster parent, contact PACC at 520-724-5900.

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Originally published 05/18/2018. Updated 01/26/2023.

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