Distemper cases concern vets

By Clarence Plank: PNT staff writer

At least two recent cases of distemper in dogs have doctors at Caprock Veterinarian Clinic concerned.

“It’s been years since I’ve seen any distemper cases,” Dr. Kathryn Bartlett said.

Distemper is an airborne and contagious disease that can affect a dog’s respiratory, urogenital, gastrointestinal, optic nerves and central nervous systems, she said. It can be treated, she said, but there is no cure and it is often fatal.

“Most of the time it is puppies who catch it from a dog that hasn’t been vaccinated,” Barlett said. I think for a long time people were getting their dogs vaccinated. Puppies are … relying on the mother’s immunity.”

Symptoms include runny nose, runny eyes, fever and coughing.

“It is not a virus,” Bartlett said. “It is aerosolized, but it doesn’t live in the environment very long. It has to be fresh, like if the dog sneezes and/or coughs … a dog was nearby can catch it.”

Non-vaccinated dogs could be exposed for many reasons, i.e. running away and ending up at an animal shelter.

The Portales Animal Shelter, operated by the police department, had to put down three dogs with distemper in the last three months. Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said the shelter doesn’t have the resources to treat stray and runaway dogs.

“One of the dogs we know of was taken out by a foster rescue group situation and died while in there,” Berry said. “It either picked up the distemper while at the shelter or in the foster care situation, but we’ve had three dogs within the last three months.”

Berry said he’s heard of other cases around town, but there’s not always evidence to back that up.

Bartlett is currently treating one dog with distemper under out-patient care.