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Roosevelt, Fort Peck Tribal Health Departments Urge Dog Owners To Spay, Neuter Pets

Roosevelt County/Fort Peck Reservation is an area with large numbers of stray and sexually intact (not spayed or neutered) dogs. These are conditions that increase the risk for dogs to test positive for canine brucellosis.

The disease is very concerning because there is no vaccine, there is no cure; dogs testing positive must be euthanized, and not only can it be transmitted to other dogs, it can also be transmitted to humans.

“This disease is well entrenched in the dog population in Roosevelt County and the Fort Peck Reservation. Community members need to take action if we’re going to get ahead of it,” said Dennis Four Bear, director of Fort Peck Tribal Health.

Community member Tina Bets His Medicine, co-founder/ treasurer/organization champion of Wolf Point Pound Puppies has been battling to get this problem under control for the past three years. WPPP tests all dogs prior to accepting them into their shelters.

Bets His Medicine said, “We can’t test all community dogs. It’s too expensive. We do test the ones that go to the pound.” She sadi Pound Puppies pays for dogs in the pound to see the veterinarian for vaccines, deworming, flea and tick treatment and brucellosis testing. WPPP partners with area veterinarian, Heather Grimm, DVM, to provide this care for 10 or more dogs every week. The brucellosis test alone costs $90, it has a six-day wait for results, then the results aren’t always definitive which requires further, even more expensive testing.

Caused by the bacterium Brucellosis canis, the disease is typically spread in dogs through breeding or ingestion of, or oral contact with, infected bodily fluids including breeding/birthing fluids, semen, urine, saliva, blood, and feces. It can also spread from mom to puppy during pregnancy.

Though rare, humans can be infected through direct contact with birthing fluids, products of canine miscarriage, or vaginal discharge from an infected dog. B. canis can be transmitted if these infectious materials contact a person’s mouth or eyes, scratched skin, or an open wound. Children, pregnant women and the elderly all have lower immune system function. If they touch or pick up newborn puppies, touch infected bedding materials after a dog gives birth, or if the home is improperly cleaned after a dog gives birth, lifelong infection can occur.

Once in the body, the bacterium hides in areas where antibiotics cannot fully penetrate. If antibiotics are used to treat a dog or an infected human, they may reduce symptoms and reduce shedding of bacteria in bodily fluids, but the bacteria will never be eliminated.

Symptoms of canine brucellosis that can come early or late in a dog’s life are: miscarriage, still born puppies, weak puppies that die soon after birth and infertility. Dogs can also have limping, intermittent severe back pain which causes them to wince when touched, inflammation of the testicles, swollen lymph nodes, discharge from the eyes, and low energy/loss of interest in eating.

All this information leads to reasons to spay and neuter.

WPPP will begin a voucher program in January 2024: $120 voucher buys spay/neuter and vaccines ($400 actual cost). To purchase a voucher, message WPPP on Facebook or text 406-650-2177 or go to their website at wolfpointpoundpuppies. org.

Bets His Medicine said, “It’s difficult to see puppies for sale or being given away on Facebook. We know those puppies were unwanted, so why not spay and neuter the adult dog?”

Four Bear and Patty Presser, director of Roosevelt County Health Department, applauded Bets His Medicine and the entire crew at WPPP for their tireless efforts over the years to care for stray animals in the communities of the county and reservation.

“Also, it’s making a big difference to have a veterinarian in Wolf Point,” said Presser. “Dr. Grimm stepped up as a great advocate for the animals from the first day she arrived on scene.”

Bets His Medicine emphasized the importance of getting all pregnant dogs tested for canine brucellosis. “But,” she says,” why watch puppies die or be stillborn when to spay and neuter is the answer?”

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