Distemper Outbreak

by austinpetsalive • Posted in: Awareness/ PR

Update 5/13:  We’re lowering our target amount to $12,000.  As of 4/29, TLAC has started vaccinating pets on intake and we expect to see a decline of cases of distemper.

Hear radio interview with Dr. Jefferson about the outbreak.

There is currently an outbreak in Distemper, both in dogs and in wildlife. We started seeing a lot of them in February and they’re still coming in.

Out of the 461 dogs we’ve pulled from TLAC this year, 63 have come down with the virus. Normally, we only see a handful of cases per year. We’ve already spent $10,000 to treat these dogs and are desperately seeking financial help to continue saving them.

The standard routine dog vaccine given at vet offices is almost 100 percent effective in preventing this horrible disease. Unfortunately, not enough people realize the importance of this inexpensive vaccination and now the disease is out of control.

The disease attacks the GI, skin, eye, and nervous system, sometimes eventually culminating in seizures and death. The first and usually only symptom is severe pneumonia and high fever, which 90 percent of the exposed dogs are recovering from with aggressive treatment.

The only available treatment is extremely expensive. Each dog costs us hundreds of dollars just to treat pneumonia but we are a No Kill Organization, so we are going to do what it takes to save their lives, especially when we know we can save 90 percent or more.

Traditionally, for the 10% that do progress to seizures and tremors, death has been result.

However, there is now hope. APA is working with a local vet clinic, White Angel Veterinary Hospital. This hospital has been performing an experimental treatment to cure the neurological phase. Most of the neurological dogs White Angel veterinarian Dr. Liat Zhilka has treated have recovered and survived.

The immediate benefit is that these dogs get to survive, instead of dying in this terrible way. The biggest and most far reaching benefit, however, is that shelters and veterinarians across the country will have a way to save these dogs that veterinary professionals  previously thought were not salvageable. This could save millions of shelter dogs’ lives.

Sadly, the dogs that are most at risk are young puppies, dogs that don’t get vaccinated immediately after arriving at the animal shelter, and any dog that is not vaccinated in the community.

There are several ways that the community can help save these dogs and end the outbreak:

1. Donate to Austin Pets Alive by calling, donating online, or mailing in a check. We need major community support to raise $30,000 if we want to treat all of the dogs before the outbreak ends.
2. Vaccinate your dog either by going to your regular veterinarian or by contacting Emancipet and Animal Trustees of Austin to receive a free vaccine.
3. Sign up to foster with Austin Pets Alive. We need help caring for our affected dogs and we don’t have enough fosters to get them the care they need while they recover. We provide all the care, the foster just provides a safe warm environment.

We hope that Austin’s public will not turn their back on shelter dogs, and will be more likely to adopt and donate after hearing about their needs and the trials they have been through just to survive and find a home. Most dogs are not affected and should not be passed over for adoption.

15 Responses to "Distemper Outbreak"

  1. Jonisays: April 28, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Are the shelter dogs receiving shots the day of intake? If not, why not. Prevention is cheaper than treatment. And what about doing some low cost shot clinics for poor people with pets?

    Many years ago I read a book written by a vet — he saved dogs with distemper with high doses of intravenous vitamin C.

    Hope the people of Austin help with donations for the sick dogs.

  2. Stacisays: May 5, 2010 at 9:50 am

    The dogs and puppies at TLAC are vaccinated as soon as they come into the shelter. One thing that would GREATLY reduce the spread of distemper, parvo, etc would be for people to stop touching the animals. I know they are cute, but touching them only spreads disease. Vaccinations help, but so does limiting contact with the animals. It’s important to remember that every animal there is potentially someone’s pet. If your pet were to end up at the shelter due being a stray or if you were adopting a pet, would you want it to be exposed to disease because it was so cute that someone else just had to touch it?

  3. austinpetsalivesays: May 5, 2010 at 10:20 am

    There is a report that shows that up to 40% of incoming dogs and cats were not receiving vaccines before they were taken to their cages in the rest of the shelter. According to the AAC notes from last week, this practice was changed last week and we hope to receive a report documenting that the change has been made to 100% vaccinated at intake.

  4. Lynnsays: May 6, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    How can I get the latest information, the AAC reports and find out how many cases each day is occurring? I would like to go and look at a few dogs, but I am concerned because of the outbreak. I have 2 dogs at home, and 1 is a 13 year old senior that hasn’t been vaccinated in several years (I believe that we are over-vaccinating our pets). Do you have any information that can be sent or know where I can inquire for this? I’ve looked at the Travis County Health website, but haven’t seen any information pertaining to this outbreak. Any help with getting this information would be helpful.


  5. austinpetsalivesays: May 7, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Hi Lynn, these are good questions. AAC is currently working with TLAC to get more of this information. Unfortunately, the city has not posted this information publicly yet.

    We recommend adopting a dog that has been in foster (either TLAC or another rescue group) for at least 3 weeks with no symptoms. We also recommend visiting your vet to discuss your dogs (most vets can do a titre test to see what the dog’s immunity looks like).

    We will post more info when we have it.

  6. Ed Bondsays: May 11, 2010 at 6:49 am

    There is a lot more that can be done to save dogs from distemper. Please check out our websites, starting here: http://www.edbond.com/distemper/

    Ed Bond
    Kind Hearts In Action

  7. austinpetsalivesays: May 19, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Hi Lynn,
    At last week’s Animal Advisory Commission meeting, TLAC brought a report to show when all of the animals in their current care had received vaccines. It appeared that beginning on April 29th, almost all of the pets received their vaccinations upon intake. I do not believe that this information has been posted online anywhere yet for the public.

  8. Lynnsays: May 20, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks for the information. I really appreciate it. Do you know, since they have been vaccinating since April 29th, if there is still distemper issues that are being found at this time? How long does it take to overcome this issue and become distemper free? Is APA still pulling dogs that have distemper at this time? Your information is very helpful for the public to know.

  9. austinpetsalivesays: May 20, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Dr. Jefferson says that we’re not really seeing distemper lately. It’s hard to say for sure that we’re 100% distemper-free as light distemper symptoms are the same as kennel cough. I hope to publish an update on our blog soon about it.

  10. Donna Maesays: June 17, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    I adopted my dog Lacy from APA in March. I spent about 2 weeks time taking her for walks to get to know her and decided to adopt her. the day i adopted her she started coughing. she had not shown any symptoms before. she was diagnosed with kennel cough by Dr. Jefferson and my own vet. and given 2 rounds of antiobiotics. After about a month she was fine. then about 4 weeks ago she developed a tremor in her foot that eventually spread to include her whole left leg. I took her to my vet again and he suspected she had had mild case of distemper and had me take her to central texas vet specialty hospital. they determined that she did indeed have distemper. she is not contagious now but our hope is that she will not develop more problems. my question, is if APA is partnering with Angel White to help dogs, would i be able to receive help for lacy? I do not have the funds for the treatment as it is not covered by insurance. i did speak to someone at angel white and have some concerns about information they gave me. If someone could contact me i would appreciate it. thank you.

  11. austinpetsalivesays: June 18, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Hi Donna,
    I forwarded your information to our post-adoption support team, who will be contacting you to discuss your situation. I’m sorry to hear that Lacy contracted Distemper, but hopefully it is a mild case (sounds like it).

  12. Jennifersays: July 22, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    My 8week old puppy was just diagnosed with distemper. She was give her parvovirus/distemper shot 24 days ago. Since then she has been treated for diarrhea with hookworm, and coccidiosis. She just started sleeping a lot and runny eyes, nose dry skin and coughing. Distemper test came back positive. No twitching or seizing so far. How can I get some of this experimental drug for Roxy?

  13. austinpetsalivesays: July 22, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Hi Jennifer,
    I’m so sorry to hear about your puppy. Are you in Austin? White Angel clinic in Austin treats using the Newcastle vaccine (the experimental treatment).