March 3, 1999

A beautiful, sweet eight-month-old Dalmatian puppy died last night. I held him in my arms and stroked his head telling him he was a good boy as the veterinarian euthanized him. It was a stupid, needless death brought about by the failure of his breeder and his former owner to properly vaccinate him. The puppy had been dumped at an animal shelter where he probably received the first vaccination of his short life. It wasn't enough. He caught canine distemper. There is no cure.

He didn't appear sick when I rescued him from the shelter. Three days later he began coughing and a watery discharge began to come from his nose and eyes. He had a fever but his symptoms didn't seem severe. My vet thought it could be kennel cough and warned that it might be distemper. Distemper is a cruel, fatal disease. In the first stages, the cough, the fever and the discharge don't seem so bad. But then things get worse. In some cases, the discharge becomes thick and bright green, the dog begins vomiting and having diarrhea; later as the virus attacks the nervous system, the dog will develop jerking motions, usually of the head, which can progress into full blown seizures. Once the virus is in the brain, death usually follows. My poor little puppy skipped most of the symptoms and began having seizures last night, foaming at the mouth and champing his jaws together. I gave him the only gift I could at that point, a peaceful death in my arms at the emergency veterinary hospital.

I'm giving the horrible details of the disease so that the public will understand the importance of properly vaccinating their pets. This little puppy wouldn't have contracted distemper and died if only he had been fully vaccinated. Puppies need a whole series of shots over the course of several weeks. One vaccination will not do it! Here is the schedule of vaccinations a puppy needs:

Brian had a bright future until he caught distemper

  • 8 weeks DHLPPC-Distemper, Canine Infectious Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus, and Coronavirus

  • 12 weeks DHLPPC Booster

  • 16 weeks DHLPPC Booster

  • 6 months Rabies (1-year vaccination)

  • 14 months DHLPPC, administered yearly from this date

  • 18 months Rabies (3-year vaccination), administered every 3 years from this date

The only consolation I have is that for two short weeks, my little puppy had a happy life with me. He ate really good food, learned how to play with toys, was loved, petted and coddled. Now he's dead and my dream of placing him with a family of his own who would love him for the 14 years of his lifespan died with him.

There really should be a law requiring licenses for people who want to breed animals and to require them to provide proof of vaccinations and good health to puppy purchasers, as well as a schedule of vaccinations the puppy will require in the future. Reputable breeders already do this; backyard breeders don't because all they care about is making money off sales of cute little puppies and vaccinations would cut into their profits. Anyone who wants to purchase a purebred puppy or dog should seek out a reputable breeder or rescue that provides proof of vaccinations and a written contract. And everyone should make sure their pets are fully vaccinated so that no more innocent puppies have to die.

Terri Haase, Founder and Former President
Save the Dalmatians and Others Canine Rescue, Inc.

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