No Paw Behind
No Paw Behind campaign leader

Johnston wrote several articles for the South Florida Veterinary Medical Association (SFVMA Newsletter) to increase awareness of accurate Distemper testing options as well as decrease the needless killing of "possible Distemper" dogs and puppies.

She shared this article from earl 2012 with us, and share it here with her permission. She hopes this information will help improve veterinary care for shelter pets both in the shelter and after adoption.

Community Disease Awareness
By: Jacquelyn Johnston, CPDT, Clinic Supervisor Miami Dade Animal Services

Distemper has come to be one of the most infamous diseases in the public mind in the South Florida community over the past three years. The identification, tracking and public announcement of two high profile outbreaks at Miami Dade Animal Services has certainly catapulted the disease into high awareness – a place the disease rightly deserves since the community pets’ immunity levels are estimated to be below one half of all pets in Miami Dade County.
More troubling than the vast numbers of unvaccinated pets in our community, however, is the overarching disconnect between professionals in the veterinary community about what testing is available to identify and diagnose the disease. For years shelter vets relied on the term “possible distemper” as an identification marker for any pet deemed a possible victim of the disease. Due to the extremely contagious nature of the disease, then, these pets had to be humanely euthanized. Very little testing was conducted to confirm the presence of the actual virus or quantify the viral load potentially being shed by these “possible distemper” pets.
In 2011, MDAS was thrilled to learn from IDEXX and the University of Florida infectious shelter pet disease specialists that a new quantitative RealPCR test is now available. In direct contrast to the deceptive IgG and IgM testing of the past, this RealPCR test does not rely on the levels of immune response in the blood but rather quantifies the number of viral particles actively present. The test is simple: a deep pharyngeal swab and a conjuctival swab are sent in and the results render an actual count of viral particles found in the patient.
The new technology affords shelter veterinarians accurate information about risk levels and the varying degrees of quarantine needed to keep the pet and the population safe. The test also provides us with a way to screen “possible distemper” cases for the presence of infected pets in the shelter population and ultimately avoiding euthanasia as preventative disease control. Over the past several months, an estimated twenty recently adopted pets have gone to over ten different veterinary clinics around South Florida and have been diagnosed as positive for distemper due to the use of testing which relies of immune response. Since all shelter dogs and puppies have been just recently vaccinated using a modified live vaccine, and many have had two boosters or more, these tests have proven to be an inaccurate way of identifying distemper positive patients. When the public returns the sick dogs to MDAS, we have now started to offer the option to have their pet tested with the RealPCR test to confirm presence of the virus. Thus far, all pets have been identified as distemper negative and many have been given a second chance at a loving home.
For more information about the new testing or any information regarding the ongoing use of this test at the shelter, please feel free to contact Jacquelyn Johnston, [email protected]. (NOTE- email no longer in use since her position was eliminated).

Resources:
October 2011 - For example, we developed and launched the new Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) Quant RealPCR™ Test in 2011 to help veterinarians differentiate between vaccinated dogs and dogs infected with canine distemper virus, which commonly causes respiratory and gastrointestinal problems in recently adopted puppies.

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