Deadly dog disease on the rise: Arizona Humane Society issues pet health alert

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX – With systems of distemper on the rise all over the country and right here in Phoenix, the Arizona Humane Society has issued a Valleywide pet health alert.

Distemper, considered one of the four major dog diseases, is a highly contagious disease that is often fatal, but it’s also preventable with a simple vaccine.

Occurrence of distemper generally increase in the spring in proportion to the increase in the number of puppies that are born. According to the Arizona Humane Society, signs of the disease are cropping up much earlier than usual, with cases already showing up as far away as Florida and Tennessee.

The canine distemper virus is a whole-body disease. The virus is in bodily secretions and spread via inhalation. Once inhaled, the virus moves to the lymph nodes and then to the blood, spreading to the respiratory, gastrointestinal, urogenital and central nervous systems.

If takes about four days for symptoms to show up. While symptoms vary from dog to dog, discharge from eyes/nose, coughing, lethargy, lack of appetite, callusing of nose/foot pads, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures can often be signs of distemper. The eye discharge, which can easily be mistaken for a simple cold, is often the first sign of a potential problem.

The Arizona Humane Society vaccinates every single one of the adoptable animals in its care and urges pet owners to follow suit.

There is no definitive treatment for distemper, nor is there a reliable test to confirm diagnosis. Because there is no drug to kill the virus, vets work to treat the symptoms and prevent secondary infections.

Puppies younger than 4 months old and dogs that have not been vaccinated are at increased risk of contracting the disease.

“Distemper is a very serious disease with fatal consequences; however, it is completely preventable by simply vaccinating ones pets,” said Dr. Nancy Bradley, AHS medical services director, in a news release. “This disease is yet another example of the ill-effects of pet overpopulation and the impact that it has on the community as a whole.”

The best thing you can do to protect your dog is keep its vaccinations up to date.

If you think your dog might have distemper, you need to isolate it from other pets immediately and get it to the vet as soon as possible.

In order to help curb a potential outbreak, AHS hosts vaccination clinics every Friday at its two public clinics. Vaccinations are $18 each. The walk-in vaccination clinics are open every Friday, 8 a.m.-noon and 1 p.m.-5 p.m., and are run on a first come, first served basis. You can also make appointments Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.

Nina Mason Pulliam Campus for Compassion
1521 W. Dobbins Road
Phoenix, AZ 85041

Sunnyslope Facility
9226 N. 13th Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85021