Save Dogs From Distemper: Frequently Asked Questions

Posted: December 30, 2010 in canine distemper
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Will these treatments save my dog from distemper?

It depends on whether your dog will be treated fast enough. Dr. 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 nearly too late. And often if the treatment is delayed too long other opportunistic diseases can set in. By then, even if the distemper symptoms are reversed, the dog could still die of the other diseases. In medical science there are no absolute guarantees, but if a dog is treated quickly and properly with Dr. Sears’ protocols, there is an excellent chance of recovery.

How do these treatments work?

We don’t know the full story, yet. But here’s a possible explanation: The treatments are based on the Newcastle Disease Vaccine (NDV). Newcastle Disease is something that infects chickens. The vaccine was designed to give chickens immunity from the disease, but in the dog something else entirely happens. The Newcastle Vaccine may create a response within the dog’s T-cell 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.

What are the symptoms of distemper?

Distemper is often seen in two stages. In the first pre-neurological stage – before neurologic problems – 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 attack the oligodendrocytes,  which controls the production and protection of myelin. With the destruction of the myelin sheath that protects the nerves, the neurological stage begins with seizures. The neurologic problems could be seen as chorea – a kind of involuntary twitching and shuddering – as well as a loss of balance, chewing gum seizures – which look like the dog is trying to chew a piece of gum – to a full-body shaking and 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 within the first six days of symptoms, 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.

But this is so wonderful. It’s a miracle cure, isn’t it?

Whoa. Don’t get ahead of yourself. If the dog is treated within six days, there is an excellent chance of recovery. But so many people find out about these treatments late.  This is not  a resurrection technique.  It cannot save a dog who has been on the brink of death for weeks and return them to health. And with the spinal tap treatment for the neurologic distemper, you must remember that the seizures usually do not go away immediately. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, months. But what we believe has happened is that the virus has been stopped, giving the dog a chance to recover. But remember, there is always the danger of pneumonia and other diseases that can kill your dog. Also, please realize that every dog will react to this differently, just as they react to distemper differently. Factors that can affect the outcome include age, the strength of the immune system, neutering, loss of T-cell function and the genetics of the virus and of the vaccine. Even under the best of cases there will be those who do NOT respond. We aren’t promoting a miracle, but we can offer hope for distemper dogs.

What happens if I don’t get my dog treated within six days?

Then you are likely to see the neurologic phase begin. Thanks to the spinal tap treatment, there still is hope for your dog, but the odds of success start to drop. The survival rate of dogs treated with the serum within six days of symptoms is in the high 90s. After seizures have started, the survival rate of dogs treated with the NDV spinal tap is probably closer to 60 percent. The longer you wait, the more the odds of survival will drop.

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 NDV-induced serum.

How do I order the serum?

The serum cannot be mailed or shipped within the U.S., but vets can make the serum in their clinics, store it there and treat dogs brought to them.  We do not sell any veterinary product ourselves, but we do sell DVDs of Dr. Sears’ lecture last year in Houston. Proceeds from those sales are to go to help pay for the costs of making serum, treating dogs and working toward getting the serum submitted for scientific trials and publication. Kind Hearts In Action is a 501c3 charity.

How do I find a vet who can perform these treatments?

E-mail us at Tell us how old your dog is, what symptoms you are seeing, how long you have seen them and what region of the world you live. Vets using these treatments have saved dogs in central Florida, Texas, Southern California, Alberta Canada, the Philippines, India, Romania, Hungary, Turkey, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico and most recently in Costa Rica. If you need a find a vet to treat your distemper dog in any of these places, please e-mail us at Also, before you panic, please get a diagnosis that you have a distemper case. The fastest way to diagnose is through the Brush Border Smear. Anyone who lives in the Philippines should also check out the blog from Clarisse Quitco-Tanner about how her dog Icy was saved: ALSO: Please stay in touch with us and let us know the outcome of your case. Let us know whether your dog was given any of the NDV treatments or not. Let us know whether your dog lived, died or is still struggling with problems. We appreciate videos and pictures that show dogs before and after treatment.

What other diseases in dogs does the serum treat?

According to Dr. Sears, it has also cured dogs of herpes. It may have a beneficial effect on dogs with canine influenza. However, that depends on what strain of the virus that is attacking. However, we know for certain the serum and the NDV treatments do NOT cure parvo.

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:

So, who is Ed Bond?

Ed Bond is the project director on canine distemper for Kind Hearts In Action, a 501c3 charity in the U.S. He also runs a group of websites on behalf of Dr. Sears. He became involved in this issue after his dog was saved from distemper by Dr. Sears in 1997. He has been an activist for this cause since December 2008, when he started the Save Dogs From Canine Distemper cause on Facebook. He now manages information about Dr. Sears and his treatments on Facebook, WordPress, Twitter and YouTube, as well as a discussion board on post-NDV spinal tap issues. However, he is not — and does not claim to be — a vet, a scientist, a researcher or an expert. He is a former journalist, using the tools of media and the Web to spread the story about Dr. Sears and his treatments, as well as documenting the outcome of as many distemper cases as possible. Ed Bond can answer many questions about the NDV treatments as Dr. Sears has explained them to him, and most of the information needed to use the treatments are on these websites, which are reviewed and approved by Dr. Sears. However, when questions become too technical, Ed will refer you directly to Dr. Sears or to another vet. More about Ed Bond.


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