Eli came to the Madera Veterinary Center as a new patient in May. He came in for upper respiratory symptoms and gastrointestinal distress. A month prior Eli was seen at an emergency clinic for gastrointestinal distress. Eli had been a part of his family for about 4 years, and was originally from a woman who told his new family “he had all his shots.”
We ran regular lab tests on Eli and treated his symptoms. Eli initially improved but then began displaying neurologic symptoms (muscle tremors, seizures.) Another dog from the same family, 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 the 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 ER) and upper respiratory tract. Over time 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 provides life long 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 TLC by his family for about 4 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.
Not all stories in veterinary medicine have a happy ending. Eli’s loving family and MVC wanted to share his story so that other pet parents understand the importance of vaccination. A vaccination program should be tailored to every pet’s need and only a veterinarian can give the best recommendations. If you are unsure of your furry family member’s vaccination status or history please make arrangements to have a consultation with a licensed veterinarian right away.
In loving memory of Eli and Harley.
Dr. Monica Dougherty, DVM
Madera Veterinary Center