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Tue, Sept. 17

New strains of distemper affecting pets, but not yet seen in Arizona

Last month, the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) released news from the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA) that two new strains of distemper may have found their way into Maricopa County.

The AVMA is now saying that according to data from the Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Center and the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Pathobiological Sciences, there is no evidence that two new strains of distemper have developed in Arizona.

However, genetic studies of the canine distemper viruses in the U.S. do show strains that have previously gone undetected; but it is unknown if these strains are newly arrived or just now being seen due to better testing protocols and equipment.

The organizations also make it clear that "a genetic change in the virus doesn't necessarily change the virus enough to impact our pet's health."

There has been an increase in the frequency of distemper cases through the Southwest, but authorities now believe this could be due to the earlier arrival of warm weather. Normally, the virus affects young, unvaccinated puppies every spring. Arizona animal shelters have noticed a difference in the disease this year. Both puppies and adult dogs with questionable vaccination histories appear to be at high risk for the disease. Authorities believe that a down economy and fewer owners obtaining vaccinations for their pets could be contributing to the problem.

For more information on vaccinations, check out the American Animal Hospital Association's Canine Vaccine Guidelines. YHS provides low cost vaccinations every Friday without appointment at the YHS Spay/Neuter & Wellness Clinic, 2989 Centerpointe East, Suite B, Prescott, 771-0547.

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