Emporia - A disease is killing dogs across Lyon County and veterinarians do not know what it is. Vets at Kansas State University are working with the Emporia Animal Shelter to find out.

Dozens of dogs that seemed to be healthy quickly became deathly ill at the shelter. "We're in the process now of hoping it's not some virus that we're not aware of ... some new form of distemper or this new circle virus that's been reported around the country," said Emporia veterinarian Floyd Dorsey.

Dorsey thinks it started with dogs found wandering out in the country that were picked up and brought to the shelter. "We've been trying to contain it since then and each time we think it's contained, it seems to break out again," said Dorsey.

The sick dogs started with what seemed like kennel cough, but progressed to matted eyes, green mucus from the nose, and fevers. "The virus can affect the brain and the central nervous system, cause seizures, cause wobbliness when they walk. They go off food, won't eat and usually have to be put down at that point," said Dorsey.

About 40 dogs reached a point where the vet had to put them down. After euthanizing eight dogs in one day, the shelter immediately stopped all adoptions. "Until we have the organism isolated and we know exactly what we're dealing with, we thought it was best not to adopt anything out," said Dorsey.

The shelter will continue to bring dogs in, but will keep them separate from other dogs. Sick dogs will be kept in isolation.

Cats at the shelter have not been affected by the sickness. They are still being adopted out.

Vets recommend people living in Lyon County keep their dogs away from other dogs they are not familiar with until the virus is controlled.