Perhaps the most devastating fact in being hit with Distemper is that it’s completely preventable. We’ve beaten this virus long ago but due to those that don’t vaccinate, the disease lives, spreads, and still occasionally wreaks havoc on canines. The sad truth is, when it does, it almost always ends in death. The American Pit Bull Foundation had a heaping dose of devastation recently in being sidelined by Distemper after saving a mother dog and her twelve tiny babies.

Cammie and her crew, (all fondly named after Carolina Panther’s players) were pulled from a rural shelter out of Marlboro County, NC. Their first stop was with seasoned foster Mom, Kim, to get everyone settled and ready for their permanent foster. A local veteran and now volunteer, Greg, and his wife, Angela, were seeking a Pit Bull puppy to train as a service dog for Greg, who has occasional struggles with PTSD. We pulled this family from the shelter with the hopes that Greg’s puppy would be among the tiny twelve. Greg and Angela wanted to document their journey to help Operation Sidekick and committed to helping foster the litter until selection was made. Cammie’s puppies were to begin the stimulation and training that our OS dogs would be getting to help us learn and grow for the program as they did.

As the babies began to settle in, so did the disease, which had not shown itself until a week after their arrival. First, pustules began to pop up – not a big deal, puppies get pyoderma occasionally. Swelling started to enter their tiny faces – puppy strangles was a likelihood so treatment began. Diarrhea creeped through the litter – puppies get parasites routinely – coccidia was found and treatment began. Then fever, lethargy, inappetence, tremors and the realization that we were dealing with something much bigger and badder than simple puppy pyoderma and parasites.

The possibility of Distemper, normally low on the differential list, became the top suspect for the rapid decline in health.

The Distemper virus attacks multiple organ systems. Gastrointestinal, Respiratory, and the Nervous System. There is no cure, only supportive treatment and those that hit the neurological phase simply don’t make it out. It is highly contagious and typically fatal without the immune response built from prior vaccine exposure. our puppies stood a grave chance if confirmed that Distemper was truly what they were facing.

Greg and Angela provided exceptional love and care around the clock for the babies. Reese struggled early on and Philly was soon to follow. Sadly, Philly was that very special puppy that had taken to Greg immediately and who we had high hopes of for being his girl, his companion. When Philly’s little body gave out she was resuscitated by the team at Carolina Veterinary Specialists. Her rally was short lived and soon there after, she crashed again when her body simply couldn’t take anymore. They were not able to resuscitate her a second time.

Losing Philly was solid blow that rippled through our team. As hard as it is to lose a foster that you care for, a puppy intended for service work at that, it was only the beginning.

We sent little Philly off for necropsy to hopefully get some definite answers and submitted a blood test, a PCR for Distemper, to get confirmation in what we were truly facing. In the meantime, we lost Reese, Luke began to seize uncontrollably and despite oxygen supplementation 24/7, IV fluids, tube feeding, and around the clock care, his body gave in as well, and I held tiny Luke as he slipped away from us.

Bene, Miley, Star, Kony, Swayze, (with his unforgettable little bet ears) and Ryan, all one by one declined right in front of Greg and Angela and as the team held their breath, we struggled to beat the clock. All one by one they faded through seizures and when the results finally came back that we were in fact in the midst of a Distemper outbreak, we made the decision to start letting them go when they began to seize. Prior, without confirmation, we were willing to give them everything we could to help their little bodies fight off what was taking them. With a known disease that has no cure, our battle was more than uphill, it was nearly impossible and we were unlikely to do anything but delay the inevitable and cause further suffering to the babies still remaining.

Remarkably, Davis was the only puppy that never had to be hospitalized. Little Graham nugget and roll poly Devon were the only two puppies to be hospitalized that made it out alive. They were fighters, and miraculously, they won their battle.

Davis, now fondly known as Sydney, was adopted along with Philly’s little twin, Devon, now known as Lilah, by Greg and Angela. Handsome red nose Graham is available for adoption and is one of the sweetest babies that APBF has had the pleasure of caring for.

All said and done, APBF committed to just at $10,000 for the litter we took responsibility for from the small rural shelter in Marlboro County. Every dog and puppy we take in, they are one of our pack, one of our very own. We take that responsibility with great care and provide everything possible for the betterment of our dogs.

I am truly proud to have the team, the partners, and the public resources that we have to be able to care for our own the way we do. Greg and Angela couldn’t have come to us at a better time and were incredibly strong and compassionate through the trying events that unexpectedly unfolded.

As for Cammie, she was a great Mama dog and she is thriving beautifully in foster. She is Heartworm positive and will be receiving necessary treatment. She was very emaciated when we brought her in and she has since been gaining weight and getting extra TLC from her foster parents. Cammie is available for adoption.

If you’d like to donate to APBF’s Medical Fund to help us continue providing excellent care to our canines, please visit our donation page at

In loving memory of Swayze, (Bat), Reese, Ryan, Luke, Bene, Kony, Star, Miley, and Philly.