If you belong to dog chat groups or keep on top of dog-related media, you might have seen some recent warnings of distemper. The media is warning that a new strain of distemper is causing a resurgence in the deadly disease.
The Arizona Humane Society recently released the following warning:
“ As cases of the highly contagious, often fatal distemper disease surface throughout the Valley, the Arizona Humane Society is issuing a community wide health alert to pet owners within Arizona. While increased occurrences of distemper typically arise in the spring due to an increase in the number of litters of puppies, signs of the disease are appearing much earlier as cases have recently emerged as far away as Florida, Ohio and Georgia.
There is also evidence to suggest that two new strains of distemper indigenous to Europe have made their way to the U.S. and while the typical incubation period for distemper is one to two weeks the new strains may have even longer incubation periods. In addition, distemper was once thought of as a disease that primarily affected puppies who have not had all of their “puppy” shots; however, there is evidence of older pets with unconfirmed vaccination histories becoming infected with the
While AHS vaccinates all animals upon intake into its shelter, it is imperative that the community is diligent and does the same by updating their pet’s vaccinations as directed by their veterinarian. Distemper, just as the equally fatal parvovirus, is a community problem. Therefore, people must be very careful when taking their pets to communal areas such as dog parks or other public areas with unknown dogs. In addition, unvaccinated dogs are at high risk for contracting the disease. Currently, there is no specific treatment or cure for the distemper virus nor is there a fool-proof test to confirm or deny the diagnosis.
AHS is taking every precautionary measure available to ensure the health of the animals in our care and in our community. In addition, AHS is working closely with our vaccination representatives as new information becomes available while also working in conjunction with Oklahoma State University regarding a research study so we can gain more information on the deadly virus.”
Of course, the media has taken hold of this and the paranoia is starting to build. Is there a real reason to be concerned, or is this an isolated case that the pharmaceutical companies are taking advantage of to garner media attention? If this seems far-fetched, then you might want to read how pharmaceutical companies used the media to increase sales of the canine influenza vaccine.
We questioned Dr. Pat Jordan DVM about this media attention and she has already been in contact with immunologists Drs Ronald Schultz and Jean Dodds.
“(Dr. Schultz) is working with them to stop spreading fear mongering (as per Dr. Dodd) whom I also notified.” says Dr. Jordan.
“Dr. Richard Pitcairn believes that both rabies and the distemper are capable of flaring up in populations of dogs under stress from time to time, like with too many dogs and not enough resources. I believe that is probably the purpose of many viruses endemic to certain species. In this case, it first came out from the reports in Arizona from a conglomerate of spay neuter clinics.”
“I have only seen a few cases of distemper in my lifetime. All cases had shots administered. One set of puppies were not vaccinated but picked up by a pound and put in a very stressful situation with a large and highly diseased crowd of animals. When the pups were adopted, they actually got two puppy vaccinations before “breaking” with distemper. Because the incubation can be 6 weeks, it is possible to get two vaccines in that time frame. The other case I saw, and I suspect this does happen frequently, is a case of distemper from a very young dog in a pound put through too early rabies vaccination, anesthetized and spayed, and administered vaccines at the same time. We know that anesthesia also can result in immunosupression and actually allow the viruses in the vaccines to ‘express’.”
“There is no issue with any alleged new distemper strains not being protected fully by the current vaccines.” says veterinary immunologist Dr. Jean Dodds. ”Dr. Ron Schultz has been working with the AZ folks to straighten this out. The fear mongering comes from an uniformed public.”
The takeaway point is to delve deeper into media releases and question what motivation may be behind them. As more information is made available on the numbers of dogs affected, we will keep you posted.