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Kershaw County to hold free distemper vaccination clinics

First come, first serve basis

Posted: June 8, 2017 4:55 p.m.
Updated: June 9, 2017 1:00 a.m.

A regional outbreak of a serious and often fatal disease in dogs is causing major concerns locally and regionally.

Local veterinarians as well as organizations such as the Kershaw County Humane Society/Thiel-Myer Pet Adoption Center have seen a significant spike in the number of canine distemper cases within the past few weeks. In fact, the increase has been so serious that starting Monday, the Kershaw County Department of Safety and Emergency Services is holding several canine distemper vaccinations clinics across Kershaw County this month. The vaccination is free, but available only on a “first come, first serve” basis.  

 Clinics will be held at the following dates, times and locations:

June 12, 9 a.m. to noon, Buffalo Mt. Pisgah Fire Station 

June 14, 9 a.m. to noon, Bethune Fire Station 

June 16, 9 a.m. to noon, Cassatt Fire Station 

June 20, 9 a.m. to noon, Charlotte Thompson Fire Station 

June 22, 9 a.m. to noon, Flat Rock Fire Station 

Canine distemper is a viral disease that affects the gastrointestinal, respiratory and central nervous system of dogs only.  The virus is preventable by routine, annual vaccinations. However, Kershaw County cannot guarantee that any animal receiving the canine distemper vaccination will not contract canine distemper.  

According to the AVMA, canine distemper usually first presents with symproms such as watery, pus-like dischargefrom the eyes, followed by fever, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, reduced appetite and vomiting. As the disease attacks the nervous system, an infected dog will develop circling behavior, head tilt, muscle twitching, convulsions, seaizures and partial or full paralysis. The disease has a high mortality rate and those dogs that survive usually have permanent and irreparable nervous system damage.

According to the AVMA, the canine distemper virus is usually spread via airborne exposure through sneezing or coughing, or even from shared food and water bowls and equipment. Mothers can also pass the virus to puppies. 

Distemper can also be found in wildlife such as coyotes, ferrets, foxes, mink, raccoons, skunks and wolves. In wildlife, distemper often mimics rabies symptoms, according to the AVMA. 

Sharon Jones, executive director of the Thiel-Myer Adoption Center, noted that pets shouldn’t have to suffer from distemper, as it is a preventable disease.

“If everyone properly vaccinated their pets, we probably wouldn’t be having this outbreak,” she said.  “But people need to understand proper vaccination. It’s not just one shot -- to be properly vaccinated, puppies need to have the entire series, then get the booster once a year.” 

If your dog has been properly vaccinated and kept up with the boosters, it should be protected, although at the moment the shelter is advising people to keep their dogs away from other dogs as a precaution, she said.

Taking pets to a properly licensed veterinarian is the best action pet owners can take to ensure optimum health of their pets, she said.

“The other thing to remember is, this is not just in Kershaw County -- there are major distemper outbreaks all over South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee right now,” Jones added.

No single factor has been blamed for the outbreak, although the AVMA emphasizes that improper or ignored vaccination practices due to irresponsible pet ownership is usually a significant factor.

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