How My Dog Bailey Survived Distemper and How Yours Could TOO!

Bailey with owner Joyce Burton Titular right before Bailey was diagnosed with Distemper.

NOTE: Many readers have asked how Bailey is doing now so I’m going to link a short FB video here showing how frisky she is two years after the Spinal Tap. Click here to get to the video!

I am writing down the story of my dog Bailey and her battle against Distemper in the hope that if your dog has Distemper, you won’t give up and just let your dog die. Distemper may not have a cure (it’s a virus) but there are ways to help give your dog better chances of surviving.

First of all, you have to understand that Distemper is VERY hard to diagnose. At least that’s what I’ve read on almost all the Distemper websites I’ve visited. It took my vets more than a week to figure out that Bailey had Distemper. Most of time this is the case; pet owners like me discover that its Distemper a little bit late in the game.

DAY ONE – Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The first sign that Bailey was ill was her lack of energy, reddish eyes and a runny nose.

It was very odd because Bailey is like a jumping jelly bean and can jump higher than my head – I’m pretty tall at 5’9″. She also can’t contain herself when I’m around, so to see her listless and just sitting there was incredibly disturbing.

So I figured maybe she had a cold. Since animals are less hardy than people when it comes to colds, we took her at once to our Vet in Tiendesitas on C5.  It’s a clinic run by Vets In Practice but has a different name in Tiendesitas, I forgot the name, but it’s the only Vet Clinic in Tiende and you can’t miss it.

I remember the name now – it’s Animal Care Specialists Vet Clinic.

They did a few tests:

Temperature – she was running a medium fever.

A test for worms – she was positive for hookworms.

A blood test to check if it was Heartworm, Parvo or something affecting her internal organs – she was negative for these, a big relief for me.

First diagnosis  – could be worms causing her lethargy. So they gave Bailey a pill to de-worm her and we took her home.

DAY 5 – Saturday, March 12, 2011

I was expecting Bailey to improve quickly because worms aren’t such a big problem. But she was still lethargic and that is never a good sign with a dog known to be frisky. So we brought her back to the vet but this time, I insisted that we check her in overnight even if the Vet said she had no fever.

During this visit, they did a test to check her sugar levels but there was no problem with that. At this time, the Vet admitted he was baffled over what could be affecting my darling Bailey Girl but he was suspicious it could be blood parasites.

Second diagnosis – it might be blood parasites. So the vet prescribed a pill for 14 days. As I said, we checked her in anyway and the next day we took her home. The Vets informed me that she was quite ferocious, barking at them all time and growling when they would feed her. I took this as a positive sign thinking that she was okay now.

But Bailey continued to be listless and I started noticing that her nose was getting dry, and the ridge above it was thickening (a Distemper sign that I didn’t know about) and she also seemed to be breathing abnormally because the pit of her belly kept pumping really fast. But I continued to give her the pill for blood parasites reminding myself to be patient because just like vampires,  blood parasites ares hard to kill.

DAY 11 – Friday, March 18, 2011

No improvement with Bailey. Although she had no fever, she looked as limp as a plate of stale lettuce. Furthermore, she started to walk with a slight wobble in her back legs. Again, we took her to Tiendesitas. Since the first Vet that checked Bailey was not in, a different Vet checked her out.  He listened to her heart and he heard an odd beat.

Third Diagnosis – Arrhythmia. Instead of the regular pitak-pitak, Bailey’s heart was off-beat. The Vet said that this, combined with blood parasites could be causing her to be weak and wobbly. He said that we should just continue giving Bailey the meds for blood parasites and then afterwards, we will deal with the Arrhythmia.

Fine. We took her home, still hopeful that she’d be okay.

DAY 12 – Saturday, March 19

The first thing I did when I woke up was check Bailey girl. She was the same boring dish of lettuce except I thought I noticed a nervous twitching. It was very mild though – you’d only notice it if you were looking really closely – her jaw was twitching every second or two and so was her forearm. Little did I know that this twitching was a Distemper hallmark.

The wobble in her back legs also seemed more pronounced today so I told Ron (my hubby) that we had better take her to the main animal hospital of Vets in Practice in Mandaluyong and not to Tiendesitas anymore.

At Vets in Practice they did several tests:

A stool test – negative for worms (of course.)

A blood test – white blood cells were very low.

It was the blood test that made the Vet suspicious that it could be Distemper. So he did one more test – something that looked exactly like a  pregnancy test (you know, the white, rectangular plastic stick?) except you drop blood instead of urine into it. After a short wait if you get one line it’s negative. But if you get two lines, it’s positive for Distemper.

And poor Bailey girl got two lines confirming that she did indeed have the Distemper virus.

I asked the Vet what was going to happen next. Was there any hope? I had read up a little on Distemper and knew that the survivor rate was low – only 20% make it.  But I could not ask the question in my heart – should I put Bailey to sleep?

To my shock, he said that there was one thing we could do – inject Bailey girl with a blood serum that was accidentally discovered and then developed by an American vet named Dr. Sears. But there was a catch – we needed a dog blood-donor who would pass stringent testing. I stood in the check-up room for 20 minutes and I could not think of one dog that would sacrifice his time and blood for Bailey. Besides, my Chihuahua Ramses was too small.

Fortunately, Vets in Practice had some left-over serum from a previous dog; it would be a bit more expensive, but it would give Bailey a chance of surviving. There were no guarantees but I went for it anyway. Bailey is one of the best guard dogs in my home and never fails to bark at any stranger that passes my gate. I knew that if she were human, she would do the same for me. Bailey deserved a chance and while it was costly, I do have a great Father in heaven who has no problem when it comes to money issues. So we went for the serum shots – three of them to be given every twelve hours on the dot.

The first Serum Shot was given at 1:50pm, March 19, 2011.

The Vet prescribed Baytril, an anti-biotic to protect her against secondary illnesses and Vitamin B complex to help promote the repair of brain and spinal material.

At this point I started giving her Colloidal Silver daily, a powerful remedy against viruses, bacteria and fungi. Three times a day, about a teaspoon each time. I am a strong believer in Colloidal Silver but there are side-effects that you need to know about so please do research first.

DAY 13, March 20, 2011

The second Serum Shot was given at 1:50 am today. Yep, we left the house a little past midnight to make the appointment.

The third and last shot was given at 1:50 pm. The Vet said that we had to wait for two days to let the Serum do it’s work. Well, it was a difficult two days for me because by this time, Bailey’s symptoms had gotten worse:

Twitches – the hallmark of Distemper. Her jaw twitched and so did her front legs. They would twitch all day and all night.

Head Bob – another hallmark of Distemper. Her head would bob up and down like as if she were a disoriented 80-year old on drugs.

Weak appetite – thankfully, Bailey would still eat one or two bites of her food. It was so hard though to figure out what she wanted because she is a picky eater. But we gave her everything from beef bones to rice and even catfood. At this point, we HAD to get nourishment into her thin body, even just a little. We would feed her three times a day and if she refused to eat, we would force-feed her with canned dog-food smashed and watered down so we could inject it into her mouth using a syringe. I would also force-feed water but did it VERY CAREFULLY – if water ever entered her lungs, she could develop pneumonia.

By this time, I had done so much research and found out that there was one last thing we could do – an NDV Spinal Tap. (Thanks to Lestre of Petiks for encouraging me to do the Spinal Tap asap!) But the Vets at VIP told me that we had to wait the full two days to let the serum work. If it didn’t work then we could do the Tap.

Fine. We waited.

DAY 16 – Tuesday, March 22, 2001

Today was my birthday and all I could think of was Bailey. Because it was costing me so much, I had canceled all my bday plans and diverted my bday money to my current priority – giving Bailey a fighting chance against Distemper.The only thing I asked God for today was my bouncy Bailey, back to normal…

At noon, we drove Bailey (in a borrowed vehicle, thank you Raymond for lending me your car on my coding day!) to VIP Animal Hospital in Mandaluyong to get the Spinal Tap done. There were ZERO improvements in Bailey but neither was she getting worse. It was like she was stuck in some sort of Distemper purgatory.

It was a LOOOOONG wait at VIP. They must of had fifty patients ahead of Bailey, including one duck and a marmoset. But finally, Doc Allison came over to us and I gave her the run-down on our case. VIP has many excellent Vets and is kind of like the Makati Med or St. Luke’s for animals because they have lots of Vets with different specialties and accept all creatures great and small – horses, turtles, hamster, you name it.

So today we had Doc Allison – a very pretty and soft spoken Vet and one of the few at VIP who could do Spinal Taps. I liked her at once. She came out to the side of their building to check on Bailey and begin the NDV Spinal Tap procedure. Yeah, that’s right, we had to do the Tap outside because Distemper is incredibly contagious and we didn’t want other doggies to catch it from her.

Right before Tap, there was one thing we needed – a vial of the Newcastle Disease Vaccine. Allison asked us if we had brought a vial of the stuff and I was like – um… okay, we don’t have that.

I had heard of that Newcastle thingy in my online research on Distemper but I had no idea that I had to supply the Vet with it. So Doc Allison checked their refrigerator if they had some on hand (I was praying like a maniac at this point) and she came back to say that they had a vial for Bailey but we had to replace it that same day. She gave me the address of the Poultry Supplier that supplied it.

Yes, apparently, Newcastle is a bird thing and since I’m not a Vet I can’t tell you why using a bird thing on a dog thing would work. But I had faith and I trusted the Vets at VIP and so I said, go-go-go!

Read the comments section for an explanation on the bird thing on a dog thing…


The area where the NDV Spinal Tap was performed on my dog Bailey

They could not do the procedure inside the Animal Hospital because, as I mentioned, dogs with Distemper are so contagious and will surely pass on the virus to any other dog they breathe on. Instead, we had to do it outside in a shaded area of VIP’s parking lot with Bailey on a towel-covered plastic bench.

So we were all huddled there – Chin, the girl who gave Bailey to me; Joy my helper; Ron my hubby; Darius who drove the car and me. It felt so GOOD to have so many of us there fussing over her.

First thing was to put her under with an anesthetic. Doc Allison said the procedure was very delicate and we couldn’t have Bailey twitching and jerking around. After the anesthetic, she had to look for the correct place to withdraw spinal fluid and inject the New Castle Vaccine. It’s somewhere on the batok (nape) of the dog – we had to bring Bailey’s chin close to her chest to stretch out the bones in the top of her spine.

After three pokes, Doc Allison found the right place and did her stuff so fast that it was a dramatic as a mosquito bite. Although I was let down because I was expecting something more action-packed like blood flying everywhere, I was just grateful that it was done and that I had done my best to make sure Bailey would have a better chance at surviving Distemper.

After the Spinal Tap, Bailey woke up, we gave her subcutaneous fluids (Doc Allison taught me how to stick the needle in!!!) and we drove to pick up the New Castle Vaccine at the Poultry Supply on Quezon Avenue, dropped off Baily at home and brought the Vaccine back to VIP to replace what we took.


My research told me that seizures were to be expected after a Spinal Tap, something Doc Allison confirmed. So I prepared my helpers by telling them that Bailey might just have a seizure or two, don’t panic, just calm her down with gentle patting. Of course her first seizure had to happen when I was not around and naturally my helpers panicked like I told them NOT to and jumped up on the ledge at our patio (Bailey’s sick bay) in fear. But thankfully the seizure was a fast one and the only one we saw her have. I hear that other dogs have it worse.

To make sure that the dog doesn’t hurt himself/herself during a seizure, it’s important to have soft bedding. Even more important is the anti-seizure medication – in our case, VIP prescribed Gabantin (generic name Neurontin) which is, according to the Vet, supposed to control seizures and lessen twitching and pain.

The days after the Spinal Tap were roller-coaster days for Bailey. One day she would look good (still limp but walking and even trotting around and barking at strangers) then the next day she would look like death itself. But I continued with her medications: Gabantin, Vitamin C (prescribed after the Tap), Vitamin B, Baytril, Colloidal Silver and Subcutaneous Fluids.

Her appetite was also roller-coaster. And unpredictable. She would want catfood for one meal then would refuse it the next. She would lap up lactose-free milk and eat bread dipped in it for one day then refuse to touch the stuff the next day. Right now, she will only eat people food brought in by Manang Vilma, my cleaning lady. And for some strange reason, Bailey prefers rice over meat. Bizarre. But the Vets told me to just figure out what she wants and give it.

Meal schedule – She was on three meals a day from the first time I took her to the Vet. And when she would refuse to eat a meal, I would force-feed her dogfood mashed with water to make it soft enough for a syringe. I would feed her at least five syringes of soft dogfood for each meal she refused to eat.

TLC – This is SO important. Dogs with Distemper (or any illness for that matter) need a lot of attention. A lot of tender, loving care. I set up a small sick-bay area for her in the patio and had my helpers put a TV there during the day so they could keep Bailey company and not get too bored.

When I had no work, I would be by her side, talking to her, praying for her healing and massaging her body gently. I would sit next to her and read a book or answer my email.

At night I would put some OFF Lotion on her head, back and tail and on her beddings to keep the mosquitoes away. I surrounded her with soft rags, old clothes and an equally old but soft pillow. We tried to keep her as warm as possible – many dogs who seem to be recovering from Distemper suddenly take ill with pneumonia or some other secondary illness so it’s important to keep your dog warm enough and pumped up with anti-biotics.

DAY 23 (SEVEN DAYS AFTER THE SPINAL TAP) – Tuesday, March 29, 2011

According to Dr. Sears, the man who first discovered the Serum (which stops the Distemper Virus in it’s tracks) if a dog survives 6 days after the NDV Spinal Tap, it is out of the woods. (Actually, I read this somewhere online; I’m trying to look for it again to link it here.)

Well, its Day 7 today and Bailey is alive and twitching. I believe she will indeed make it through the rain just like Dr. Sears and Barry Manilow said.

Note – I have read that the Serum of Dr. Sears is only effective BEFORE the twitching sets in. In the case of Bailey, she already had mild twitches so it was a bit too late. Once the dog starts twitching, it means that the Virus has reached the nervous system – a bad thing – so in that case it is recommended to go ahead with the NDV Spinal Tap. But since I am not a Vet, it would be best if you consult your animal’s doctor first when making a decision.

Conjuntivites or Sore Eyes – a Canine Distemper manifestation

The only negative development today is Conjunctivitis or Sore Eyes which is, apparently, a Distemper manifestation.

Today is Day 2 for Bailey’s Sore Eyes so I’ve been dropping Colloidal Silver into her eyes. I use warm water to loosen the eye gunk (muta) which is so thick that it prevents Bailey from opening her eyes. BUT I DO THIS WITH NO  RUBBING. Just gentle patting and wiping with warm water on a cotton ball did the trick for Bailey. If the gunk won’t go away from your dog’s eyes,  just try again a few hours later. Remember that rubbing can scratch and seriously damage your dog’s eyes.

Twitching and Head Bob – she is still twitching and when she walks she still has that irritating head bob and disoriented gait but Doc Allison says it’s to be expected. In fact, Bailey will most likely have twitches and a head bob for the rest of her life. They won’t be as pronounced as they are now, but most Distemper survivors carry these signs all their lives.


1) Not getting Bailey her complete shots was a big mistake on my part. I kept delaying and delaying. And I kept thinking that since Bailey was an askal (mutt) and hardier than pure-bred dogs she would be fine. But that wrong thinking resulted in the story you just read. Please get complete shots for your dog.

2) DON’T GIVE UP once your dog is diagnosed with Distemper. THERE IS HOPE! I have heard that many Vets here in the Philippines will just tell you to put the dog to sleep or take it home to die. DON’T GIVE UP! Look for a Vet in your area and ask for an NDV Spinal Tap (much much cheaper than the Serum by Dr. Sears). I also hear that if you email Dr. Sears, who is now retired, he will respond to your questions.

If you are in Metro Manila or nearby it then go to Vets In Practice (Dr. Neilsen Donato is the head vet – an amazing guy if you ask me!) at #63 Maysilo Circle corner Boni Avenue, Mandaluyong City (this is the circle where the Municipal Hall is) or call them at 531.1581.

They are a 24-hour Animal Hospital but be careful about going there between 10pm to 8am – they charge EXORBITANT emergency fees at those hours – something I am against. If it’s a true emergency then they SHOULDN’T charge such huge fees or they should charge something minimal.

Anyway, while Vets In Practice is not perfect, they definitely are one of the best in Metro Manila, if not THE best. They were the only guys who accepted my Hamster Mariel when she got ill. (Thanks Dr Raymond for fixing Mariel!)

Just remember to be patient with the Vets – animals can’t speak and it makes their job harder. Give them room to treat your pet; don’t act like they are stupid for not knowing your pet’s problem because they are not God. Sometimes it takes time for them to figure out these things. So be patient; if you work with them instead of against them, the process is less stressful for everyone including your pet.

But if you really are bothered by the inability of your vet to figure out what’s wrong, trust your instincts and look for another vet.

I wish you the best with your pests… ooops, I mean, PETS!

Thank you to the ff for helping Bailey Girl thru her Distemper adventure – Joy (for being Bailey’s yaya), Paning (for being assistant yaya) Doc Allison (great Spinal Tap!), Ron T (for paying all the bills, hehehe), Manang Vilma (for bringing extra people food for Bailey), Chin (for visiting Bailey and being there during the Tap), Raymond G (for lending your car so Bailey could see the Vet on my car’s coding day), Darius (for patiently driving Bailey around that day).

Thanks too to all the Vets at Vets in Practice for taking care of my DOG; you’re all cool CATS in my book!

Thanks to Dr. Al Sears and to Kind Hearts in Action for all the Distemper Information available for free online!

This video below will show you how Distemper twitching looks like. If you’re dog is exhibiting these signs, go get an NDV Spinal Tap ASAP! In this youtube vid, Bailey has breakfast in bed seven days after he spinal tap.

This next video will show you how Bailey is like on four legs with her twitching and head bob. Again this was taken seven days after her NDV Spinal Tap.