Arizona's High Country is seeing a rise in a deadly disease affecting not just wildlife, but dogs. This year alone, the Coconino County Humane Association has seen over 60 cases of distemper in dogs from all over northern Arizona.
Normally, the county sees about two or three distemper cases per year.
“It is a problem,” said Michelle Ryan, executive director for the Coconino County Humane Association. “As a matter of fact, we’ve seen more this year than we have seen over the last 10 years combined.”
Dogs with the disease have been coming from all over northern Arizona but mostly from the most rural areas where statistics show vaccinations rates are lower, says Ryan.
“We’ve seen cases from Tuba City, Kykotsmovie, Chinle, Kayenta, Kingman, Winslow, Williams, Doney Park and Flagstaff," said Ryan.
She blames a warm winter, fewer people vaccinating their pets and more distemper in wildlife for the sudden increase in cases.
“What it means is more puppies and dogs are dying,” she said.
Dogs can be infected by coming into contact with wildlife or other infected dogs and the disease has an incubation period of about one to 16 weeks.
Pregnant dogs can also pass on the virus to their unborn puppies.
There is no cure for disease and it is not always easily identifiable. Some dogs will show signs of a runny nose and gooey eyes, sneezing and coughing.
A simple vaccination that runs as low as $7 can save your pet.
“This disease is easily preventable. There is a vaccine available and it is relatively inexpensive,” said Ryan.