Canine Distemper in Florida Threatens Pet Dogs

University says increase in canine distemper in wildlife raises risk for dogs and shelters.

Posted: February 22, 2010, 2 a.m. EST

Canine distemper virus is on the rise in the wild in Gainesville, Fla., University of Florida veterinarians said. Unvaccinated pet dogs and shelter populations are at greater risk for contracting the disease, according to the university.

Veterinarians collected swabs from the eyes and noses of five raccoons and one fox, then sent them to a diagnostic lab to screen for a variety of respiratory diseases. All samples came back positive for canine distemper, said Dr. Julie Levy, D.V.M., Ph.D., director of the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

“This worries us because the disease is quite contagious, and once a dog is infected with the virus, there is no effective treatment,” Levy said. “More than 50 percent of the dogs that contract canine distemper will eventually die from it.”

Hundreds of dogs died recently in Orange, Brevard and Pasco counties because of distemper outbreaks, according to the university.

At a time when many of Florida’s animal shelters are experiencing budget cuts, Maddie’s fund provides funding to allow UF’s program to help whenever disease threatens homeless pets.


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Tammy   Boca Raton, FL

12/26/2010 5:02:55 PM

Most recently, my husband and I adopted a dog from a shelter in Pal Beach county Florida. After several trips to the vet (recommended by the humane socierty), hundreds of dollars in vet bills and medicine, a second opinion from a vet tested positive for distemper, Our 8 month old puppy needed to be put to sleep. We adopted another dog from a Miami rescue and the same exact thing. An entire litter of puppies with distemper. Finally, we just adopted 2 healthy puppies from a rescue organization in West Palm Beach and both are fine. We took extra precaution and had them vaccinated a 3rd time. I know the rescue organizations do the best they can, but it is very crucial that the puppies be vaccinated as soon as possible at least twice before adopted out.

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Andrea   Crystal Springs, MS

2/23/2010 9:08:27 PM

Growing up in long island many years ago our beloved german shepard contracted distemper but a clinic somewhere on the island saved him. i wish i could remember the vets name @ the clinic, i do remember he was there for a couple of months

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S   Three Oaks, MI

2/22/2010 4:31:53 PM

Scary--horrible disease!

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