Thursday, October 6, 2011

Meet our little survivor Apple!

Apple came to Victoria Park Animal Hospital after being found outside living with a feral cat population.  She was picked up by Animal Control and taken to the shelter.  Her future mommy knew she was taken away by Animal Control and called repeatedly until they agreed to let her adopt her.  When Apple first came to Victoria Park Animal Hospital she appeared just like every other 4 month old puppy, happy, healthy and full of energy.  Dr. Birken examined her, dewormed her, as well as administered her first set of puppy vaccinations.  About 1 week later, Apple’s mommy brought her back in saying she was not feeling well.  She started coughing, her eyes and nose became crusty, and she was not as active as she once was.  On Physical examination, Apple appeared depressed, however her vital parameters were all within normal range, and she did not have a fever.  Her lungs and heart auscultated normally and she was stable.  Dr. Birken felt perhaps she picked up a mild kennel cough at the shelter and started her on broad spectrum antibiotics. Apple and her mom went home.  1 day later, Apple returned with much worse clinical signs.  Her cough was getting worse, she did not want to eat or play at all, and she appeared like she had a fever.  Dr. Birken examined her and she had a fever and was very depressed.  Upon auscultation of her lungs, crackling and wheezes were noted.  Thoracic Radiographs were taken and revealed a severe pneumonia.  A CBC and Chemistry (bloodwork) was performed as well, which was within normal parameters. 

Thoracic Radiographs

Note how the lungs appear extremely consolidated and it is difficult to make out the heart borders.  Lungs that are healthy and aerated should appear black on radiographs.  Any white opacity to the lungs generally means there is infiltrate or disease in the lungs.

Immediately we knew Apple had contracted something more than just kennel cough!  Apple was admitted for hospitalization, started on IV fluids, IV antibiotics, and treated for pneumonia.  Every few hours her vital parameters were taken, and nebulization and coupage was started 2 times per day for her pneumonia. 
Dr. Birken took swab samples of her nasal discharge, ocular conjunctive, and gums to submit for PCR analysis for Distemper.  Sure enough…Apple’s results came back positive for Canine Distemper. 
Canine Distemper
Canine distemper is a highly contagious, systemic, viral disease of dogs seen worldwide. Clinically, it is characterized by a fever, leukopenia, GI and respiratory catarrh, and frequently pneumonic and neurologic complications.  Canine distemper is caused by a paramyxovirus closely related to the viruses of measles and rinderpest. The main route of infection is via aerosol droplet secretions from infected animals. Some infected dogs may shed virus for several months.
Canine Distemper is a disease that veterinarians SHOULD REQUIRE all dogs be vaccinated for.  The vaccine should be administered and boostered as puppies, and given annually thereafter. Once adults, you can discuss with your veterinarian administering the vaccine every 3 years, or performing blood titers to make sure your pet is protected. 
We cannot stress enough the importance of vaccinations in our pets.  Apple is a good example to show these diseases are still being contracted and pets are getting sick.  In fact, Miami Dade Shelter had to be closed down a few months ago because of a Distemper outbreak.  Our pets rely on us to protect them.  Please make sure they are receiving the vaccinations they need.
In Apple’s case, she either contracted the disease outside while living with the feral cats, or when she was picked up and taken to the shelter before she was adopted. 
 Generally there is not a cure for Distemper.  The goal of therapy is to treat for secondary infections and the secondary diseases as a result of Distemper (in this case, pneumonia) and hope with a great medical care, and a fighting spirit, their bodies can fight off the disease. We were providing Apple with the best medical care and treatment she could get.
Apple’s amazing, dedicated, and wonderful mom wanted to do more.  She looked on every website and read literature to see if there was something more we could do.  She came across a veterinarian that created a serum that helps dogs infected with Canine Distemper fight through the disease.  We contacted him, had the serum overnighted, and started administering it to her in addition to her regular treatment regime.  
Apple started improving every day.  Her fever broke, she began eating, and she was coughing less and less.  After 3 days in the hospital Apple was discharged and therapy was continued at home.  Apple just recently came back 2 months later for a follow up examination.  She has gained 25 pounds and is as healthy and happy as ever. Her mom has reported that she is doing AMAZING at home, eating avocados in the back yard, and playing with her sister. 
We are so pleased to announce that Apple is a CANINE DISTEMPER SURVIVOR thanks to lots of love and dedication from her mommy and VPAH!  Apple showed us what a true fighting spirit and “the will to live” can do to rise above adversity.  Her mommy showed us the miracles of love and dedication!
We love you Apple!

Apple today