With the return of
warm weather comes an increase in distemper and rabies infection among
cats and dogs. Distemper and rabies are a problem all year long, but
the chances of exposure are higher in the spring and summer because
more animals are outside. Distemper viruses cannot be transmitted to
humans. Rabies, on the other hand, can be transmitted among many
species of animals and can be transmitted to humans if they are bitten
by an infected animal.
Usually seen in
the spring, canine parvovirus is a serious infectious disease that
attacks the most susceptible; puppies (14 weeks of age and up) and
older dogs. It is transmitted through infected fecal matter. After
exposure, it takes one or two weeks for the dog to develop signs of
disease, however, once the dog is exposed, the virus is shed in the
feces from the third day. Your dog could appear healthy and be
shedding the virus throughout his environment. Dog parks and doggie
daycares’ should put out warnings when any of their clients report
cases of parvo. Interestingly, tan and black dogs (Pit Bulls,
Dobermans, and Rottweilers) are also more susceptible. Symptoms
include fever, depression, vomiting, lethargy, and bloody diarrhea. If
not caught quickly it is life threatening.
veterinarian suspects parvo, she will run an antibody test, and send it
to a lab for diagnosis. While waiting for the results, the vet may
give your pet medications to stop the vomiting and diarrhea, and an
antibiotic to protect against a secondary infection, and place him on
intravenous fluids to keep your pet from becoming dehydrated.
hard to kill, and can live on floors, rugs, dog bowls and other
household objects for long periods of time. The best product to clean
and kill the virus is household bleach. It doesn’t take much - one
part bleach to twenty parts water is enough to inactivate the virus.
For the bleach solution to work, all solid material must first be
removed by washing, followed by a bleach rinse. Sunshine will also
kills the virus.
The best way to
protect your pet is through yearly vaccines and keeping them from areas
of accumulation fecal matter. Puppies need shots at 12-13 and 16-18
weeks of age although your vet may start them earlier. It is believed
that once dogs have parvo they are probably immune for life.
Both the feline and canine distemper viruses are highly contagious and
often deadly. The American Veterinary Medical Society estimates that
more than 50% of adult dogs that contract distemper die from the
disease. The death rate among puppies is even higher at 80%. Symptoms
of canine distemper may include fever, mucous congestion, coughing,
vomiting and diarrhea, squinting, eye discharge, poor appetite and
listlessness. These symptoms usually appear within a week or two after
the dog has been exposed to the virus. In later stages, the virus may
attack a dog's nervous system resulting in twitching and paralysis.
Symptoms of feline distemper may include fever, vomiting, diarrhea,
loss of appetite and depression. These symptoms also appear within a
week or two of exposure to the virus. A cat that has feline distemper
will also show a decreased number of white blood cells if tested.
It is equally, if not more, important to make sure pets are vaccinated
against rabies. All warm-blooded animals can transmit rabies, which
means cats, dogs and humans are at risk of contracting the disease.
Wildlife including raccoons, skunks and bats are responsible for most
cases of rabies in the United States. The symptoms of rabies vary, but
the most noticeable sign is unusual behavior in an animal. For example,
a typically calm animal may become wild and aggressive, while a usually
rambunctious animal may become very docile and quiet. The best weapon
against either of these diseases is vaccinations. All pet owners should
make sure their pet's vaccinations are up to date. Cats and dogs should
be vaccinated once a year against both distemper and rabies. If you
suspect that your pet has been infected with either virus, contact a
veterinarian immediately. If you see a stray dog or cat or wildlife
that is exhibiting symptoms of either disease, do not attempt to help
the animal yourself. Call your local animal control agency.