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Do you worry about distemper and rabies? Probably not. To many pet owners, these diseases seem very "last century" when it comes to things to worry about. But you can't relegate these illnesses to the history books, not yet — and maybe not ever. For veterinarians, distemper and rabies never stop being a concern, because while they may seem to be diseases from the past, they are anything but. Exposure can be lethal for your pet — and, in the case of rabies, for you too.
I was recently talking with Dr. Kate Hurley of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, one of the pioneers of shelter medicine, a challenging field that’s changing the way shelter pets are treated. Dr. Hurley brought to my mind something that’s true in human medicine as well as veterinary medicine: We all have a tendancy to focus on new and emerging challenges to our health, often to the point of neglecting or even ignoring maladies that are, for the most part, completely preventable.
We do so, of course, at great risk.
Which brings me back to distemper and rabies. Dr. Hurley often gets asked about canine influenza, a justifiably scary disease discovered a few years ago among Florida’s racing greyhound population and one that is now a concern primarily along the Eastern Seaboard and in Texas and Colorado. Where canine influenza is a problem — and you should ask your veterinarian about it — there’s a vaccine that’s recommended.
But while Dr. Hurley is happy that people care enough to ask about canine influenza, she told me that she worries people take for granted an old threat that still claims many canine lives: distemper.
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