BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Dog owners are being asked to keep an eye on their pets as the Bakersfield Animal Care Center is seeing an alarming rate of dogs infected with Distemper in their shelters and around the community.
Distemper is a highly contagious virus among dogs that is spreading across the Kern County area. The Bakersfield Animal Care Center said they saw more cases starting last month and are seeing dogs test positive almost daily now.
“We haven’t seen Distemper at such an alarming rate in years previous to this year,” said Nicole Gitzke, Communications Engagement Coordinator, for Bakersfield Animal Care Center. “This year we are just seeing them explode and it is just so hard to contain because some of these dogs you just don’t know have it.”
The virus is known to attack the neurological and respiratory systems of dogs. It is most common in younger pups with low immune systems or any age dogs with an autoimmune disease or similar health problem.
It’s a problem Gitzke is dealing with firsthand. She said the Bakersfield Animal Care Center where she works has six puppies in foster care infected with the virus and is trying to limit the spread in the shelter.
“If someone is going to come to see a puppy you are only able to meet one puppy, that is it, we don’t want you handling other puppies. Like I said it is just really hard to know at first,” said Gitzke.
The reason why it is so hard to tell is that the virus can live in the dog’s body for 14 days before presenting symptoms.
The symptoms come in two waves, the first are neurological like a head tilt, circling, or chatting of the jaw. The secondary symptoms are related to respiratory illness, like nasal discharge, eye discharge.
“It can be contracted domestically. It is going to be if you have a coughing dog next door, that may have contracted the virus. They can cough through the fence; they are not protected. Domestically it can be nose to nose, saliva, blood, as well as coughing and sneezing,” said Brooke Mills, Practice Manager at Schirra Ct Pet Hospital.
Mills said the virus is also found in wild animals which makes her believe that is why we are seeing more cases.
Wildfires flush wildlife into our communities, they are in our lakes, you know things like that where we are walking our domestic dogs, and they might have had a bone they are chewing on, they pick it up and boom they are exposed,” said Mills.
She added the best way to prevent your dog from catching this is by being up to date with their vaccines. For puppies, they start at 8 weeks and for older dogs, there are annual shots they should be getting.
“Stay on time with your vaccines, puppies need to start vaccines at about eight weeks of age, they are done by the time they are 16 weeks of age with the puppy series as we call it. After that, you are really looking to do your yearly annual booster vaccines and that is the safe all for your pet,” said Mills.
Critters Without Litters offers low-cost vaccine clinics and the Bakersfield Animal Control will hold their next vaccine clinic at the beginning of December. However, officials told 23ABC that you should get your pet vaccinated as soon as possible as it is not just Distemper, but Pneumonia is also increasing among dogs in Kern County.