Puppy That Recovered from Distemper Adopted

Foothills Animal Shelter Saves Puppy Suffering from Life-Threatening Illness

Ivan-and-EllenUPDATE: We have wonderful news! Ivan was adopted into the perfect home on Sunday, August 21. Ellen spotted Ivan on the Shelter’s website and contacted us to find out more about this special puppy. Ellen was specifically looking for a buddy to be with her always—at home, camping, walking, etc. She currently doesn’t have any other animals, so really wanted to find a dog that would be her constant sidekick. Ellen spoke with our Foster Care team and with our Chief Veterinarian and expressed her eagerness to work with Ivan on his disease recovery. In addition, Ellen works in the pathology field, so is knowledgeable about special diseases and the quirks that come with them. We couldn’t be happier that Ivan (now named Ranger) found a home with Ellen!


At the end of April, a 2-month-old Labrador Retriever mix puppy was left in Foothills Animal Shelter’s overnight drop box with no information or identification. Unfortunately, the pup was in very bad shape. His coat was greasy and full of dandruff, he had nasal and eye discharge, his paw pads were calloused and he had a respiratory illness. Not only that, but the puppy seemed to wobble and stumble when he walked. The Shelter’s Health Care team examined him and immediately recognized the symptoms for distemper, a very contagious and devastating illness that has no known cure. Though lethargic and struggling with the illness, the puppy was as sweet as could be and all he wanted was attention from his care-givers.

Dr. Emily Hays, Chief Veterinarian at Foothills Animal Shelter, witnessed the puppy’s incredibly loveable demeanor and decided she wanted to do what she could to save him. “Unfortunately, most dogs in shelters that test positive for distemper are euthanized because the recovery process is very involved and there’s no guarantee that they will survive. But from looking at this puppy, he appeared to be through the worst part of the illness and I thought that given the chance, he seemed strong and willing to fight for his life,” said Dr. Hays. The only real treatment for distemper is supportive care while the animal’s immune system fights off the illness. Ivan, as the puppy was named, was placed in the Shelter’s isolation room, given care to treat respiratory symptoms and the waiting game began.

IvanIvan was isolated not only for his own health, but to protect the rest of the animals at Foothills Animal Shelter. Because of the contagiousness of the illness, Ivan received minimal interaction, which was difficult because all he wanted was to play with the people caring for him. Luckily, after about 10 days, Ivan started to improve. His skin looked better and his eyes and nose cleared up. He still wobbled, but it was more controlled. Finally, after two and a half months in isolation, Dr. Hays determined that Ivan had recovered from the most obvious symptoms of distemper.

After more than three months of specialized and life-saving care, Ivan is finally ready to find his forever home. He is currently available for adoption to a very special home who will understand his limitations. Ivan would do best with a family who has the time and resources to support his recovery. Distemper severely affects the formation of teeth and Ivan will likely require ongoing dental care. Ivan currently doesn’t have many teeth, so his tongue can droop out of his mouth some of the time. He also requires regular visits to the veterinarian and would do best with a high quality, nutritious diet. With distemper virus, there can be a possibility of neurological problems in the future, which may include additional tics or tremors and possible seizures. He would do best in a home that understands all of these limitations.

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