Distemper, a disease usually found in unvaccinated canines but rarely seen in Jim Wells County, has begun to show up in the past couple weeks. According to local veterinarian Sam Wilkinson, the disease is not frequently seen, but is easily preventable.
“Distemper is almost 100-percent preventable if people get their dogs vaccinated,” said Wilkinson.
Wilkinson is concerned with the 11 suspected cases of the disease that he has seen. He has had two positive identifications, but feels there would be more if the test wasn’t cost prohibitive (according to Wilkinson, the test runs around $100). Distemper can affect all ages of canines and is spread from animal to animal transmissions. It cannot be contracted by humans.
Symptoms of distemper include nasal and eye discharge, which could be cloudy, hardened or thickened paw pads and trouble breathing. Affected animals may also experience a rhythmic muscle contraction called myoclonus. If distemper is suspected, the dog needs to be isolated from any other canines in the home.
Cases have also popped up in Portland and Rockport where many wild animals have been reported as spreading the disease.
There is no vaccine available that will wipe out the virus once it is contracted, so precautions are taken to keep the animal hydrated, nourished and clear of fluids. Sometimes the dogs are administered fluids through an IV and given antibiotics to help clear secondary infections.
Those with concerns can look at the American Kennel Club website or contact their local veterinarian.