Eli came to the Madera Veterinary Center (MVC) as a new patient in May. He came in for upper respiratory symptoms and gastrointestinal distress. He had been seen at an emergency clinic a month prior for gastrointestinal distress. He had been a part of his family for about four years. His family got him from a lady to told them “he had all his shots.”
We ran regular lab tests on him and treated his symptoms. He initially improved but then began displaying neurologic symptoms (muscle tremors and seizures). Another furry family member, Harley, also began to display neurologic problems. MVC ran a special panel to test for infectious causes of neurologic disease on Eli. Eli tested positive for distemper virus. It was assumed that Harley also had distemper. Harley’s disease progressed very quickly and he passed away within a few days of the diagnosis.
Distemper virus is a horrible, highly contagious virus that attacks many body systems. It often starts out by attacking the gastrointestinal system (Eli’s initial trip to the emergency room) and upper respiratory tract. Over time it can progress to the brain. It is generally perceived to be a disease of unvaccinated puppies. A vaccine series as a puppy, and even one “DAPP” vaccine as an adult, often confer lifelong immunity.
Eli’s family provided amazing care at home for him, including physical therapy, hand feeding, and medications to treat his symptoms. MVC saw him regularly for progress checks and to assess his quality of life. He was given round the clock tender loving care by his family for about four weeks after his diagnosis. Unfortunately, the neurologic form of distemper is usually fatal. On June 11, Eli’s family brought him to MVC one last time and I helped him pass peacefully in his mom’s arms...