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Veterinarian Explains Canine Distemper

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FORT SMITH (KFSM)- A puppy at the Sebastian County Humane Society had to be put down after it was diagnosed with canine distemper.

The virus is spread by water droplets and respiratory secretions.

“Some of them progress onto neurological signs where they actually have seizures and then usually death,” Doctor Laura Lynch, Veterinarian said. “It`s kind of a slow process.”

Lynch works at East Side Animal Hospital.

“We haven't seen that many distemper outbreaks because vaccination is so protective for distemper virus, but unfortunately every once in a while we do see a little outbreak occur primarily it's because an animal comes into the shelter and they're already sick,” she said.

The Sebastian County Humane Society temporarily suspended adoptions Friday (June 19) after one of their puppies tested positive for the virus.

In the meantime, shelter vets will be doing tests on the other dogs to see if any of them contracted distemper.

“It's better than getting it out there and the disease spreading; getting it detected there can take care of it there,” Mike Carter, resident said.

“Them shutting down is the best thing to isolate all the animals that have clinical signs, and then hopefully they can go ahead and get back in operation,” Dr. Lynch said.

She said only 50 percent of dogs diagnosed with distemper survive.

“Some of the ones I`ve seen don`t make it, some make it, but they have permanent neurological signs if does get into the brain,” Dr. Lynch said.

She said unfortunately there is no cure. The dog's immune system has to fight off the virus.

The Sebastian County Humane Society said they expect people to be able to adopt dogs again at the shelter by the end of this week, or early next week.