How do these treatments work?
We don’t know the full story about how these treatments save dogs from canine distemper — yet. But here’s a possible explanation: The treatments are based on the Newcastle Disease Vaccine (NDV). The vaccine was designed to give chickens immunity from Newcastle disease, but when the vaccine is injected into a dog something else entirely happens. The Newcastle Vaccine creates a thunderstorm of activity within the dog’s immune system. We think this unleashes a previously unknown class of cytokines — proteins that create an immune response — that can enter a cell infected with distemper and kill the virus. We don’t know how or why, but it works and it works quickly, often within 24 hours.
How sure are you that these treatments will save my dog from distemper?
It depends on whether your dog can be treated fast enough. Dr. Al Sears recommends that a dog be treated within six days of seeing symptoms. Unfortunately, many dog owners do not find out about this treatment until it is too late. When treatment is delayed too long, the dog usually dies. In medical science there are no absolute guarantees, but if a dog is treated quickly and properly with Dr. Sears’ protocols, there is a good chance of recovery.
What are the symptoms of distemper?
Distemper is often seen in two stages. In the first pre-neurological stage — before seizures — you may see hardening of the pads of feet, dulling of the eyes, mucous in the nose, coughing and respiratory trouble. Distemper attacks every system of the dog, so the damage is happening everywhere and there are symptoms you may not see. It can attack the stomach and make your dog vomit. For a while it may not attack the nervous system, this is because of the blood-brain barrier. However, it will eventually cross the barrier and attack the myelin sheath that protects the nerves. That causes seizures, the neurological stage. The seizures could be seen as any kind of involuntary twitching and shuddering and loss of balance in the dog’s body. It could range from chewing gum seizures, which look like the dog is trying to chew a piece of gum, to full-body convulsions. Since other diseases may mimic the symptoms of distemper, your first step should be to confirm that your dog has the disease. Your vet can take a blood test for you, but by the time you get the results back the dog may be too sick to help. We recommend you get the blood tested anyway, but then treat for distemper without waiting for the results. Then later if the test does come back positive for distemper, you know you have saved your dog. But Dr. Sears has come up with a faster test called the Brush Border Smear.
So, what kind of treatment will save my dog?
That depends on how old your dog is and what kind of symptoms you are seeing. If your dog is pre-neurological, your dog might be treated with Dr. Sears’ serum. If the dog is old enough — more than 12 weeks — and has a strong enough of an immune system, an injection of the NDV vaccine may actually be all that is needed. Some dogs recover that easily. If the animal is too young a puppy or has a compromised immune system, you will need to use the serum. If the dog is neurological, then the treatment is an injection of the NDV vaccine into the spinal canal. This allows the treatment to attack the distemper virus that is destroying the nervous system.
What is Dr Sears’ serum?
The serum is created by using a donor dog, which is injected with the NDV vaccine. The donor dog’s immune system is triggered and at a crucial time, blood is drawn from the donor. The serum is made from this blood and then can be used to save a dog in the pre-neurological stage. If used quickly, the serum can stop a dog from ever having seizures.
Is the donor dog hurt?
No. When done properly in a veterinary clinic and monitored by a vet, the creation of the serum does not hurt the donor dog.
But why doesn’t every vet use this treatment?
Because this is not taught in veterinary schools, and it is not yet published in a veterinary journal. It has not yet been accepted by the veterinary community. But that doesn’t mean it is not valid. It is a new idea, a previously unknown ally in our battle against disease. And it was discovered by accident, by a simple veterinarian in a California desert community, not at a major research facility or university. In 1970, Dr. Sears tried to present his discovery to a veterinary conference in Las Vegas, but he was told to “sit down, that’s impossible.” So, he sat down and then spent years quietly saving hundreds of dogs from this disease. His work drew no attention until it was published on a Web site in 2000, and it has only been in the past couple of years since his retirement that other vets have quietly picked up his work. It will be a long road before these treatments attain publication and acceptance. Still, we have faith that this will happen eventually. We are raising funds to support research into his discovery and treatment of this disease.
And who are you?
We are Save Dogs From Canine Distemper, a project run by Kind Hearts in Action, a nonprofit based in Los Angeles to rescue and find homes for stray dogs. The project director for Save Dogs From Canine Distemper is Ed Bond, whose dog, Galen, was saved by Dr. Sears in 1997. When Galen’s story was published on the Internet in 2000, Dr. Sears finally posted the protocol for his anti-distemper serum.
Tell me more about Dr. Sears
Dr. Al Sears was born in the Canal Zone of Panama. He went to the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California at Davis and spent 40 years practicing small animal medicine in Lancaster, Calif. He retired in 2006. More information: http://alsears.wordpress.com/