Keep Your Pup Safe: Understanding Parvo and Distemper

In the last month, a spike in distemper and parvo cases constituted an outbreak in Tucson and a warning for Marana. Both of the diseases are highly contagious and possibly fatal for dogs who contract either illness.

Last week, the Pima Animal Care Center halted all voluntary owner surrenders after the spike in distemper and strep zoo, another fatal dog illness, killed at least four dogs and sickened 10 others at the shelter, according to the Arizona Daily Star

That a parvo outbreak struck the northwest side of Tucson that killed more pets within the past several weeks. Dogs that were treated for the disease visited the Crossroads at Silverbell Dog Park.

To keep your dog safe from contracting parvo or distemper, make sure to understand the illnesses and to look out for the sign and symptoms of the diseases.

What is distemper?

Distemper is a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous system.

How does it spread?

The virus spreads through contact with droplets from an infected animal's cough, sneeze, eye or nasal discharge.

Signs and symptoms:

Typically begins with signs of a respiratory illness like fever, cough, eye and nasal discharge. Gastrointestinal symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, lack of appetite, weight loss — these usually occur in the early stages. Neurological symptoms include tremors of the legs, head and neck, stumbling, seizures and paralysis. Some dogs also experience an overgrowth and hardening of the foot pads.

What is parvo?

Parvo is a potentially deadly virus that attacks a dog's gastrointestinal tract and, occasionally, heart tissue.

How does it spread?

Parvo shed in the excrement of infected dogs and can live on surfaces for months in extreme conditions. The virus can also e transmitted from contaminated surfaces like clothing, shoes and floors.

Signs and symptoms:

Most common signs of the virus is vomiting and diarrhea. Depression, fever, loss of appetite, weight, activity and water intake are also symptoms of the disease. One hallmark symptom is bloody vomit and diarrhea which can mean serious damage to internal organs.

What you can do to to keep you pet healthy

Both parvo and distemper are serious diseases that need immediate medical attention once contracted, but there are ways to keep your pet from getting sick. It is recommended owners keep their dogs from dog parks, pet stores and other areas where viruses have a high risk of transmission, according to the American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Also be sure to get pets vaccinated against the virus, especially young dogs that are more susceptible to disease.