Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The sad truth about distemper

I have mixed feelings about writing this little story for you today. I love telling you about all the fun and exciting goings-on at the centre and I don't really want to dwell on any of the sad occasions we come face to face with occasionally. On the other hand I also feel it's important to talk about the not so fortunate things because they are part of what we do and it would be painting an unrealistic picture if all the stories were rosy and with happy endings.

Puppy suffering from distemperThe team at Animal Tracks all do a fantastic job and put a lot of effort into saving and improving as many animals' lives as possible. Everyone gets the motivation to carry on from all the success stories – and believe me, there are many! Nothing is more uplifting than seeing how the animals thrive as a direct result of the hard work of the International Animal Rescue team. There will however always be animals that cannot be saved. It may be because their illness or injury is too severe, or perhaps the animal simply cannot be caught. Sometimes the centre is so busy and packed with animals that it is impossible to take any more in.

Owing to the nature of the environment in which we live it is difficult to combat disease, particularly the more severe viruses that are transmitted through the air. One of these viruses is called distemper. This virus is rare in Europe but it is very common in India and one of the biggest killers in dogs that have not been vaccinated. Distemper is an airborne disease caused by the panleukopenia virus that can end in death. A dog with distemper will display one or several of the following symptoms: fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, weakness, tremors and lack of coordination. Young puppies between three and six months old are most susceptible to infection and disease and are more likely to die than infected adults. Vaccination against this highly infectious virus (and a number of others including rabies) is given free of charge to all pups adopted from the centre.

Olive suffering from distemperI nearly died from distemper when I was just four months old. I was taken into care by two volunteer vets and they made sure I received all the necessary treatment. The photo of me was taken when I was ill. I'm sure you can tell the difference between then and now! Against all the odds I recovered but to this day you’ll notice that I have a twitch in my jaw and that my head gently bobs up and down. This because I sustained mild but permanent brain damage from the virus attacking my nervous system. It doesn’t bother me though, because on the other hand it makes people give me more attention. I was lucky to survive.

Victim of distemperThousands of dogs and puppies die because of it and it affects a lot of cats as well, although in the feline form it is known as cat flu (panleukopenia). When I see the animals at the centre go down with distemper I really feel for them because I know what it feels like to be so ill and I also know that the chances are they won't make it. The brown and white dog in the photo was picked up in Palolem in south Goa suffering from distemper. Despite the treatement given at the centre she didn't survive.

This is why I say that we must find our motivation in the success stories and remember all the animals that leave Animal Tracks healthy and happy instead of getting down because of the animals that are beyond help. I always tell the new arrivals whenever I get the chance not to worry and that they are in safe hands - and if they don't believe me I tell them my story. That soon changes their minds.

Love from me.


Karishmeh Felfeli, Sarabande The Glenn Gould Project, Offbeat Radio Dublin said...

It is important not to lose heart with the sad realities, but to keep going, because when you think of all the animals that DO make it thanks to the help of all you wonderful people - know that you have done far far far more for them than they could have ever known possible.

Olive said...

Thank you very much indeed for your kind words - I'll pass these along to our wonderful staff and volunteers.