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.