LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Veterinarians on the South Plains say they have seen an increase in cases of distemper in dogs.
The disease is extremely contagious and can spread easily from one dog to another just by coughing and sneezing if the dog has not been vaccinated.
A dog could have distemper for seven to 10 days before showing any signs of the disease. Symptoms of distemper include runny nose, runny eyes, coughing, and vomiting. Dr. Robert Taylor of the 82nd Street Veterinary Clinic says this is the worst disease a dog can catch.
"I've practiced in several different towns and I see it more here then any place I've been," Dr. Taylor said. "It's terrible, it's one of the worst diseases I deal with."
Duane Darmon and his wife live in the Hub City and have dealt with distemper personally.
The Darmons walked into the Lubbock Animal Shelter on March 5 during their free adoption event to find their new best furry friend. Their hearts went out to Micah, a Rottweiler mix.
"I fell in love with him, but he also picked me, too," Duane said. "They've got the saying where an animal can pick the owners...he put his paw on my shoulder and rubbed his face on mine and I just fell in love with him."
The Darmons could not have predicted what was to come next after they adopted Micah and brought him home. Micah became sick and later was diagnosed with distemper.
"He quit eating, wasn't drinking that much like he usually does, his nose started to run and I thought he might have just had a cold the first day," Duane said. "Then the second day he still had it."
Distemper is spread easily from dog to dog and there is no real cure.
"Unfortunately for distemper, the treatment is not very good. Some of them do live, a lot of them don't," Dr. Taylor said. "It is a horrible, horrible disease - they just wither away."
Duane has two other dogs and a cat that are all rescues. It breaks his heart to see the newest member of his family suffer.
"He's different now. He's slow moving around, we go see him and play with him, love on him," Duane said. "There's times I think he's not going to come home and that's the hardest thing because we fell in love with him so quick."
KCBD reached out to the Lubbock Animal Services for a comment.Interim Director Jennifer Harvell sent us this statement:
"Distemper is a disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous system of puppies and dogs. Puppies and dogs most often become infected through exposure to the virus from an infected dog or wild animal. Distemper signs and symptoms are not typically visible for up to 7-10 days from exposure. Lubbock Animal Services vaccinates all canines during intake. While our goal is healthy pets, we cannot control potential exposure prior to arrival to our facility. It is not our practice to hold pets for 7 – 10 days, rather we encourage fostering, adoptions and rescue to move pets into loving homes."
The main way to prevent distemper and diseases like it is to get your pet vaccinated.