Mar 20, 2024

Donut Defies Distemper

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During Toto's Gala on March 15, 2024, we shared the story of Donut and his three siblings, who became sick with distemper, a deadly virus.

Pets make their way to Dane County Humane Society in a variety of ways. Some are surrendered, some are stray or abandoned, and others arrive via transfer from overcrowded shelters. Because we are located in a community that has a huge heart for animals, we are able to take in transfers of animals almost weekly and we help them find loving homes. Last year, as shelters throughout the United States struggled with slow adoptions and high populations, we added more partnerships with overcrowded shelters and rescues. Some dogs arrived by ground transport, while others arrived on airplanes.

In February 2023, we received a transport of 22 dogs, most of them puppies, from an overcrowded shelter in Mississippi. Among the cute pups were four teddy bear-looking puppies, Cupcake, Crumble, Donut, and Brownie, who were just 2 months old. Each transfer dog is closely examined by our veterinarians upon arrival. Cupcake, Crumble, and Donut appeared fine, but Brownie showed signs of kennel cough, a common illness. He was provided with medication and our team monitored him.

To help promote all of the puppies who arrived on this transfer, Cupcake and Crumble were featured on one of our Pet of the Week TV segments. But back at the shelter, their brother Brownie was getting worse, coughing so hard he was knocked off his feet. Brownie’s upper respiratory signs, along with his wobbliness, made our vets concerned that he could have Canine Distemper Virus.

Canine Distemper Virus, commonly known as distemper, is a viral disease that weakens the immune system. It can cause symptoms including respiratory infections, fever, and pneumonia. There is no cure, so all we can do is treat the symptoms. But in about 30 percent of dogs with the virus, neurologic signs like muscle twitching, chewing motions, head tilts, and seizures can develop. And sadly, in some dogs, it can even lead to death. We were devastated when Brownie’s test came back as a high positive for distemper.

Brownie was feeling so poorly that he stopped eating, so we surgically placed a feeding tube to help him. And then his neurologic signs got even worse. Despite our best efforts, we couldn’t save little Brownie.

Brownie's test came back as a high positive for distemper.

Unfortunately, his three siblings were now showing signs of upper respiratory infections and they were immediately started on supportive medication. They too tested positive for distemper.

Our staff care deeply about all of the animals who come through our doors. They’ll often take an injured or sick pet home with them so they can provide whatever round-the-clock care that animal needs. One of our vets took Crumble, Cupcake, and Donut to foster in their home.

The puppies were bright and active in their foster home. They were eating well, but while Cupcake and Crumble were gaining weight, Donut was not.

We were worried. Donut was quieter than his littermates. While he was active and playful with his siblings in the yard, when indoors, he spent most of his time sleeping in the crate while his littermates continued to play.

Then, the foster noticed his hind end was getting weak. He was no longer willing to go up or down stairs, and he would occasionally fall over. Was Donut following the same path as his brother Brownie?

The foster continued to monitor Donut closely. Luckily, his mobility issues didn’t get worse. Ever resilient, Donut was finding ways to compensate for the issues in his hind limbs. Sure, he couldn’t always go up and down stairs, but he was running and playing in the yard, despite the occasional misstep and fall. He’d pick himself right back up and keep playing!

Thankfully, Cupcake and Crumble only had mild symptoms. By the end of March, all three puppies tested negative for distemper and were ready to find their new homes.

Crumble was already on adoption hold before showing signs of distemper. His family patiently waited for him to heal in foster before taking him home. Cupcake was adopted days after she was made available.

As for Donut, well, he was already home. His foster fell in love with him so much, they adopted him.

It’s nearly a year later and Donut’s family says he’s doing great! The only lasting effect from his distemper is some of his adult teeth did not grow correctly, so he may need special dental care in the future. Otherwise, he’s healthy and happy.

His family says, "Donut is a social boy who likes being chased by other dogs, getting cuddles from people, and regularly tries to leave the dog park with other families."

We’re told Donut is "slooooowly" learning agility. His family says, "He isn’t exactly a deep thinker, but what he lacks in brains he more than makes up for with heart. He’s the sweetest little boy and fills their house with joy!"

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Donut Defies Distemper

During Toto's Gala on March 15, 2024, we shared the story of Donut and his three siblings, who became sick with distemper, a deadly virus.

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