by Kim Powell
MIDLAND - Distemper is the leading cause of death in dogs and it seems to be running rampant here in West Texas.
"We were at the vet one time, and there were nine dogs sitting outside their cars and stuff because they can't bring them into the vet because it's very contagious, and I saw the vet running around giving all these shots to the dogs and I asked what's going on, and she said, 'they all came from the shelter.' And I said, 'well that's wrong, and I just can't do that,'" Christine Sparks said.
Sparks' new puppy died just three weeks after adopting it in June, and left her family heartbroken. Daisy started coughing and sneezing, but the symptoms seemed to be getting worse. Her vet then told her that her dog had distemper.
"It was 2 o'clock in the morning when I could just hear her yelping and yelping and yelping, and I could tell she was hurting. So I knew it was time to do something about it," Sparks said.
The problem is, the vaccine that dogs can get to prevent it is just that, a prevention. If the dog is already exposed to distemper, it is nearly impossible to cure.
"And she did get her shots from the vet, but it was too late. She was already exposed over there," Sparks said.
Paul O'Neill, the Director of Animal Services at the Midland Animal Shelter says that they can't turn away any animals that are brought in, and sometimes, it's not obvious if the dog is sick right away.
"A lot of the time, we'll get animals like that and they'll sit in the kennel for three or four or five days. And people are petting them, touching them, going to other animals. You know, day six comes around and that animal is also showing signs of sickness," O'Neill said.
Although there is an isolation kennel for animals that are obviously sick, the main room still puts the dogs close to one another.
Distemper can be spread from one dog to another just like how people can catch a cold. So with dogs coming in from all walks of life, many are questioning if it's even possible to prevent these deadly diseases.