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Published: Jan 12, 2012

There was recently an outbreak of canine distemper at an animal shelter in Ohio. Canine distemper is a highly contagious, incurable and often fatal disease. VCA Animal Hospitals reports that the viral infection can be prevented with dog vaccinations, which is why it is important for pet owners to bring their furry friends to the vet to make sure their animals are up-to-date with their shots.

An outbreak can spread quickly, and The Associated Press reports the Ohio outbreak caused the shelter to shut down for a week. Due to the severity of their illness, about 24 dogs had to be euthanized. Even if a dog survives a distemper infection they may be affected by muscle twitching, seizures or other neurologic signs the rest of their life.  Treatment for the disease typically focuses on reducing the severity of the symptoms and making the animal as comfortable as possible.

Prevention is the best way to avoid infection with distemper. Even though distemper is far less common today than it was a few decades ago, it is still a reality for some. Animal shelters, which are often nonprofit organizations, need help to care for their charges and prevent serious outbreaks.