Sabal Chase Animal Clinic

Sabal Chase Animal Clinic
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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Distemper in Miami

Distemper in Miami: The Neverending Story


At a recent veterinary conference, a local colleague and I were bemoaning the onset of yet another distemper outbreak in our community.  A vet from New York joined in the conversation.  “I don’t mean to eavesdrop”, he said, “but did you say distemper? You’ve actually seen it?  I’ve been practicing for almost 50 years and I don’t think I could diagnosis it if my life depended on it!”   Sadly, even the most junior receptionist at just about any veterinary hospital in Miami is able to recognize the clinical signs of distemper.  We see it all the time, and we are seeing it now.


Buddha, one of our favorite patients,
survived distemper as a puppy!
Distemper starts as an upper respiratory infection.  Clinical signs can include coughing, sneezing, lethargy, inappetence, and a yellow discharge around the eyes or nose.  It soon progresses to the central nervous nervous system.  Dogs suffering from this stage of the disease may howl or cry for no apparent reason, startle easily, be overly sensitive to light or sound, or suffer from violent seizures.  Although many dogs survive distemper, the neurological damage can be permanent.  

While there is no cure for canine distemper, there is an affordable, effective vaccine.  Puppies require four boosters, administered three weeks apart.  Adult dogs should be vaccinated every 12 months.  I do not recommend three-year distemper vaccines for my patients as they have never been evaluated in a challenge-based study.  The disease simply has too strong a foothold in our densely populated city.  If you suspect your dog’s vaccine may be out of date, please give us a call and ask us to check your records.  Your dog will be in good company - Grendel gets her annual vaccine in July!