What you need to know about Canine Distemper?
Canine Distemper is a highly contagious virus which attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and often, the nervous systems of puppies and dogs. It is with good reason why the canine distemper vaccine is considered a “core” vaccine by the AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association)
An affected dog will have a 50:50 chance of survival, which is why vaccinations for this disease are standard. The virus is present in wild animals, such as foxes, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, wolves, and ferrets.
How is Canine Distemper virus spread?
The virus is airborne. Contact between affected wildlife and domestic dogs may spread the virus. All dogs are at risk but young puppies and dogs that have not been vaccinated are at increased risk of acquiring the disease.
What are some signs of Canine Distemper?
The first sign of distemper is watery discharge around the eye. Following this, symptoms become more serious. Dogs develop fever, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, reduced appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. Ultimately, the virus can progress to the nervous system, resulting in seizures or paralysis. Occasionally, the virus may cause paw-pads to harden.
Distemper is often fatal. Even if a dog does not die from the disease, canine distemper can cause irreparable damage to a dog’s nervous system.
How is Canine Distemper treated?
There is no specific treatment available for Canine Distemper. Veterinarians support your pet by working to prevent secondary infections; helping to control vomiting, diarrhea, or neurologic symptoms and combat dehydration through administration of fluids, antibiotics and with supportive care. Since the disease can be spread to other dogs, patients must be hospitalized and treated in an isolation ward.
At Risk Dogs
Young puppies are particularly vulnerable. Puppies receive some natural immunity provided in their mother’s milk but there is evidence this may wear off before the puppies own immune systems are mature enough to fight off infection. Even with vaccinations on board we still may see vaccinated puppies that occasionally succumb to distemper. Although, there is significantly less chance with a vaccine series on board that will allow the puppy to produce antibodies against this disease should they become exposed.
Distemper is prevented through isolation and vaccination. Until a puppy has received its complete series of vaccinations, pet owners should make sure they take their socialize their pet in places which require dogs to be up to date on vaccinations and be cautious of public places such as dog parks, training classes, and pet stores where your pet may encounter unvaccinated animals.
Published by Murrayhill Veterinary Hospital, Your AAHA Accredited Beaverton Pet Hospital.