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Our Distemper Journey: From Diagnosis to Procedure

Our Distemper Journey chronicles the week-to-week experiences of our dog, Kyla, a young 1 year and 2 month old female Aspin who was diagnosed with distemper 08/15/15. This is inspired by a blog by Ms. Joyce Ann Burton-Titular who shared her experience with her dog, Bailey, and her survival from distemper from AdventuresofaBeautyQueen.com.



The next morning, I was off again to the vet. My hind legs have gotten wobbly overnight that I fell to my side many times  inasmuch as I tried to walk. My mommy had to carry me to the car to bring me to the vet. When we got there, my vet took out a Distemper Kit and swabbed the inside of my wet nose. Minutes later, she looked at me and mommy with a very worried look I’ve never seen on her face before.

“She’s positive for distemper.”

Mommy wanted to cry but held back her tears as she hugged me. The vet said there was no cure. Mommy knew it because she had read about it on the internet last night. The vet had put me on IV since I feel so sick that I really didn’t want to take anything – not even fluids. She also prescribed me with additional meds to help my system fight off the virus. When we got home, mommy looked really sad. I wanted to bark at her and wag my tail to tell her that I’m okay. But I can’t even stand up now and my stubborn hind leg kept on twitching like crazy. That night, I couldn’t sleep with all the twitching but I didn’t want to make a sound for fear that I will cause my mommy to panic. Every now and then, she would visit me, pat me on the head and offer me food. I usually loved to eat but I don’t know why I am not in the mood to take any. *sigh*

That Sunday, my mommy cried intermittently beside me the whole day as she watched the alternate twitching of my head and my hind leg. She tried to exercise me by walking me a few steps around the backyard. At least I could still walk although it was so difficult to keep my balance and had fallen to the side a few times just like yesterday. I wonder if I would still be able to walk, run and jump after this. :'(

On Monday morning, my mom woke up before her alarm clock even went off. It was shortly after 8:00 am. She immediately got on the phone and inquired about the treatment she had read from a website (Kind Hearts in Action) the previous night. It was the use of Newcastle’s Disease vaccine (NDV) for dogs with distemper. My mom read that although it’s not even in the experimental phase, there have been anecdotes on the success rate of using this vaccine, which was originally meant for poultry, in dogs like me suffering from distemper. The use of the NDV for distemper was discovered by Dr. Alson Sears, a veterinarian from Lancaster, California in the early 1970s. However, the veterinary community didn’t believe him and he lacked funds to do further research about it so the findings have never really been proven. Despite so, in the years that followed, a number of veterinarians followed suit in using this vaccine. Much to my mommy’s joy, this treatment is available in the Philippines where I lived. I saw mommy’s eyes lighten up for the first time since I was diagnosed as she whispered to me that there was hope for my condition.

And so, a few hours later, I found myself being carried into the car and traveling for miles to get to Vets in Practice in Mandaluyong.

pre-spinal tap

Kyla while waiting for the doctor at VIP Mandaluyong.

My mom didn’t bring me inside for fear that the other dogs might get sick because of me. They brought me instead to a separate area within the hospital premises which they built for patients with distemper. I was the only dog in that room. I got a little scared but my mommy was at my side so I feel slightly relieved. The doctor came and discussed my illness with my mommy along with our treatment options. Yes. Options with an “s”. Because apparently, there were 5 options that my mommy could take to help me fight off this disease:

Option #1: Canglob D Injection

Antibody injection for 5 days.

Cost: PHP 250

Option #2: Body Shot of Newcastle’s Disease Vaccine

Cost: PHP 500

Option #3: Serum Injection

A donor dog will be given the NDV shot and serum will be collected from him/her which will then be given to the dog with distemper subcutaneously for 3 doses 12 hours apart. This is following the protocol of Dr. Sears in using NDV for distemper.

Cost: If with donor dog: PHP 150 per injection, If without donor dog, PHP 1500 per injection

Option #4: Spinal Tap with Newcastle’s Disease Vaccine

For dogs with neurologic stage distemper (like me).


PHP 500 for consult

PHP 1500 for sedation

PHP 2000 for the procedure

PHP 850 for the Newcastle’s Disease vaccine

Option #5: Euthanasia


Mommy was really sad when she saw the last option but she whispered that I shouldn’t worry because she will fight with me all the way through. She opted for the spinal tap for two reasons: 1) We lived far, 2) I was already in the neurologic phase of distemper. 🙁 The doctor let her sign a waiver and I saw her cry while signing that little piece of paper. She didn’t want to put me through a risky procedure – so risky that I might not even wake up with the sedation alone – but she wanted to give me the best chance at survival even if the results were just anecdotal.


The Atlanto-occipital joint in a dog. Image courtesy of: https://anatomy.wikispaces.com/Atlas

They had me sedated very lightly because the doctor said I might not wake up if she gives me the full sedation. In a matter of seconds I was asleep, tongue out and all. My mommy said that the procedure itself was very quick if only there were no difficulties in finding my foramen magnum / atlanto-occipital joint, that area at the base of my skull where the needle will be stuck and the vaccine given. My mommy said that it was just like a lumbar tap which she does with babies and kids… only it was done near the buttocks. Ouch! 

As soon as the doctor hit the right spot, she took a little cerebrospinal fluid and injected me with the vaccine which mommy said was a beautiful color blue.


Glassy-eyed after waking up from sedation. No. Thats not blood behind her. Thats Povidone solution.

Glassy-eyed after waking up from sedation. Nope. That’s not blood behind her. That’s Povidone solution.

I woke up just a few minutes later, totally groggy and all. I saw my mommy laughing at me as I stared at her rather blankly. There was something in her eyes that was not there in the days that passed. It was the look of hope.

She paid the bills, bought my new medicines and I was brought back home. She laid me again in my old corner of the garage where I had previously been in isolation while recovering from Parvovirus just two months back. *sigh* 

It’s Day 0. Mommy read that she should watch me out for seizures post-spinal tap. Of course this agitated her so much that she actually went over to check on me about 10 times that night. I didn’t mind it a bit as I couldn’t sleep because of all the twitching. Mommy couldn’t either for fear that I might go into seizures without anyone by my side. So, for the time being, my mom and I laid side by side as she caressed my furry head and sang me to sleep.


*to be continued*


If you haven’t read the part 1 / prologue of this series, click here: Our Distemper Journey: Prologue

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