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Nightmare coming alive – Canine Distemper

Nowadays life goes on in its normal path in Noe, we fight our daily battles and see everyday miracles and joys, we smile and cry as we always did and do.
But behind the scenes some of the darkest days in Noe’s history have passed in these last couple of months. A nightmare came alive: distemper broke out among our adult, and even among the vaccinated dogs.

We had to reject almost every day a healthy but needy dog (though we can always cope with serious cases) And why we did this? The shelter is FULL for years, even though only few understand what full exactly mean. It is not only about not having space, though that is also true, but full house is also related to the very complex and sometimes lengthy process of placing a dog. The first and most important phase is the quarantine and vaccination – Hungary requires vaccination against rabies (madness) to ensure basic public health, even though it is almost impossible for a city dog to be infected with rabies. Sadly, it is more common for these poor animals to be contaminated with parvo, distemper or corona virus. That is why we vaccinate our animals to resist all these: they receive vaccination that protects them from 7 different diseases (these are parvo virus that causes enteritis, distemper, hepatitis, laringotracheitis, paraflu, leptospirosis). We run our vaccination program on the basis of more decades’ old practice and in accordance with the dog’s age. This routine helped us isolate sickness and sources of infection rapidly and thus prevent any serious trouble or epidemic.
No wonder we were shocked to see the happenings of the last months, it was one of the most painful experiences which led us to revise our principles in vaccination and quarantines. From one moment to another distemper raised its head among the vaccinated (though they received only one vaccination) adult dogs who were already through quarantine.
Dog owners know that distemper is one of the most horrible illnesses: it has 3-7 days incubation period, during which the dog already spreads the virus. It begins with a modest fever which can refer to a number of other sicknesses. After 3-4 days of feverless state the second fever phase brings the typical distemper symptoms: extremely high and long-lasting fever, running nose, inflamed eyes, coughing, pneumonia, vomiting, diarrhea, spots, thickening paws and nasal speculum, brownish coloring of teeth. In fact there can be 2-3 weeks when the dog contagious but the sickness in not revealed. The second fever phase and its symptoms are in most cases lethal and even if a dog survives this, there is the third phase yet to come, which can bring along serious neural damage. In theory there is possibility to heal even from this state but the neural symptoms usually last forever.
When it became obvious that one of our dogs is contaminated with distemper we immediately introduced serious precautions, but these seemed to come too late. The dogs got sick one after another, especially the ones with weak health, either because they were already sick or were too young or too old. We immediately turned to our vets, consulted with virologist and we fought all together for every single protégé of ours. The most important was to revaccinate every dog as soon as possible, and not only because we had 500 dogs’ lives in our hands and losing even one would depress all of us, not to mention an epidemic. Thus, we revaccinated all our dogs in one single day, and repeated the vaccination in two weeks’ time on those who were specifically exposed to the merciless virus.
Unfortunately it turned out that by the time we scheduled the revaccination some of our dogs had already been infected with distemper. There were some who weathered the hardship relatively well but there were some who passed away. How many? Too many. Even one was already too much, but we had to say good bye to some of our four legged friends. We would never forget them, and we are so sorry that we could not help them despite all our efforts. The heavenly herd of already passed Noe Dogs will greet them through the Rainbow Bridge.

It seems we could isolate and stop the infection with the special precautions and the new vaccination practice. In fact, we have had no new contamination in the group in the last couple of weeks and the survivors are all right, moreover, some of them have even found a family – obviously we have informed the new owners about the recent past and what the dogs had been over.
As a result, we reorganized and tightened quarantine and vaccination process and we check visiting dogs more attentively. All our dogs, regardless of their age, receive at least two combined vaccinations before leaving the quarantine.

Visiting the Shelter is perfectly safe for all vaccinated dogs (basic immunity program and reminder vaccination) – the proof for this are the Noe volunteers’ dogs themselves, who regularly visit the shelter and are fine.
We hope that all who read this sad story will recognize the lesson to be learned: it is not only important but essential to pay attention to the vaccination of your dogs and to a life-long vaccination scheme. Medical tests show that being once infected does not give immunity against re-infection, the only real protection is regular and strict vaccination.

If you need more information or advice in this topic we are happy to help you at


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