PACC sees increasing number of distemper cases

Distemper can easily spread through shelter
PACC dealing with dangerous virus
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 7:22 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Pima Animal Care Center is asking for the public’s help in getting more than 75 dogs into foster and adoptive homes.

This comes as the shelter is seeing a concerning increase in distemper cases coming in.

“I think we have two active cases of dogs that came in with distemper, but we’re just seeing more of that in the community coming in sick,” said Monica Dangler, director of Pima Animal Care Center.

Distemper is not uncommon in a shelter and during the summer months. However, when several dogs are sick or exposed it makes it difficult to isolate, especially when the shelter is in an ongoing space crisis.

Distemper can attack a dog’s body through its intestines, respiratory or neurological system. And it comes with many symptoms.

“It kind of goes through phases and in no particular order. It could start with upper respiratory-type symptoms with nasal discharge and coughing. It could be neurologic symptoms, like muscle twitching, seizures, drooling,” Dangler said.

Dangler said it is also harder to test for than other viruses.

“Parvo, we can test them right there on the spot and get results of if they’re parvo positive or not immediately, as opposed to distemper. We have to send that out for testing. So that’s what makes that a little bit more tricky,” Dangler said.

And if any dog does have it, it can be hard to treat.

“You know, distemper is a little bit trickier. Parvo is really pretty easy to treat. We have a really high success rate. I think we have about a 90% success rate at treating parvo. Distemper is not quite as high,” Dangler said. “So there’s a lot that we don’t know about distemper, but as shelters start treating it more and saving the dogs, we’re coming across new treatment ideas and options to help save those pets.”

Dangler also said it can easily spread to other dogs in the shelter.

“But in a shelter environment, it’s like a daycare for children. There’s lots of animals all together. So it’s really easy for it to spread from animal to animal when they’re not vaccinated,” Dangler said.

This is why the shelter is in desperate need of more space.

“We’re hoping to be able to clear one of our pods sections, so we can just make it a clean break. New dogs can go in there and just kind of start over that way,” Dangler said.

And while they wait for more cages to clear up, they started the “3 to Thrive” program to help keep dogs safe.

“When people find healthy, friendly stray dogs, they can bring them here. We will vaccinate them and then ask them to take them home for 72 hours because it takes a good 72 hours to get the full benefits of a vaccine,” Dangler said. “They would just bring them back. Then we would admit them into the shelter as normal, and hopefully already have that immune resistance built up.”

Dangler says the easiest way to keep all dogs protected is through vaccinations.

For individuals interested in fostering or adopting a dog, you can learn how on PACC’s website here.