Today: Feb 28 , 2020

Distemper is On the Rise In the Southwest

13 February 2012   Missy Paschke-Wood

Although there is no sign yet of two new strains of distemper, it is still important to vaccinate your pets. 

STATE WIDE PET HEALTH ALERT UPDATE: No sign in Arizona yet of 2 New Strains of Distemper Affecting Pets Throughout the Country

Last month, the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) released news from the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA) that two new strains of distemper may have found their way into Maricopa County, Arizona.

The AVMA is now saying that according to data from the Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Center and the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Pathobiological Sciences, there is no evidence that two new strains of distemper have developed in Arizona.

However, genetic studies of the canine distemper viruses in the U.S. do show strains that have previously gone undetected; but it is unknown if these strains are newly arrived or just now being seen due to better testing protocols and equipment.

The organizations also make it clear that “a genetic change in the virus doesn’t necessarily change the virus enough to impact our pet’s health.”

There has been an increase in the frequency of distemper cases through the Southwest, but authorities now believe this could be due to the earlier arrival of warm weather. Normally, the virus affects young, unvaccinated puppies every spring.  But Arizona animal shelters have noticed a difference in the disease this year.  Both puppies and adult dogs with questionable vaccination histories appear to be at high risk for the disease.  Authorities believe that a down economy and fewer owners obtaining vaccinations for their pets could be contributing to the problem.

Regardless of whether or not there are new strains, there have been an unusually large number of cases in the Southwest and it is strongly recommended that your pets are current on all of their vaccinations. The available distemper vaccines are highly effective and will protect your pet in all but rare circumstances. 

For more information on vaccinations, check out the American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Vaccine Guidelines.  YHS provides low cost vaccinations every Friday without appointment at the YHS Spay/Neuter & Wellness Clinic - 2989 Centerpointe East, Suite B, Prescott, AZ 86301 - (928) 771-0547


The Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) is the largest animal rescue organization in Northern Arizona.  YHS has been serving Yavapai County’s citizens and animals since 1972. YHS has an animal shelter, a Cat Adoption Center in PetSmart, a Thrift Shop and a Low Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic all in Prescott, AZ.  In July of 2010, YHS adopted a “no-kill” ethic which led to a 77% decrease in pet euthanasia and a 95% live release rate.

YHS Main Shelter Campus-  1625 Sundog Ranch Rd, Prescott, AZ, 86301- (928) 445-2666

YHS Spay/Neuter Clinic- 2989 Centerpointe East, Suite B, Prescott, AZ 86301- (928) 771-0547

YHS Thrift Shop-  1046 Willow Creek Rd, #127, Prescott, AZ, 86301-  (928) 445-5668

YHS Cat Adoption Center in PetSmart- 277 Walker Rd (on Hwy 69), Prescott, AZ, 86303- (928) 776-9636