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What You Must Know About Distemper in Dogs

Posted by on Feb 13, 2013 in Blog, Resources, Vaccinations

Distemper in Dogs

Distemper is a serious viral disease that has a devastating effect on dogs who’ve contracted it.

When we talk about distemper in dogs, we are referring to a serious medical issue that is commonly known as canine distemper. Henri Carre was the French vet who described the first case of distemper in 1905. Although the first vaccine was created in 1923, it wasn’t developed commercially until 1950. However, this vaccine was not frequently used so the virus remains common among dogs all over the world.

Although wild animals such as ferrets can get the disease, it is most prevalent in domestic dogs.

What is Distemper in Dogs?

It is an extremely contagious disease that spreads rapidly and is the number one cause of death from infectious disease globally. There is no known cure for the condition and pet owners are advised to seek vaccination for their dog as soon as possible. The virus spreads through the air and attacks the tonsils and lymph nodes of dogs. After residing there for approximately a week, it moves on to the dog’s nervous, gastrointestinal and respiratory systems.

Symptoms include a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit, watery discharge from the eyes and nose and red eyes. Distemper in dogs usually results in the animal becoming tired and possibly even anorexic as it refuses to eat. It may also suffer from diarrhea and begin vomiting. When the disease reaches its later stages, the dog’s nervous system is attacked and this can result in seizures, paralysis and fits. Yet another symptom is thickened or enlarged pads on the dog’s feet. Distemper in dogs can result in death within 3 weeks if the animal has a weak immune system.

Treating Distemper in Dogs

Only a qualified veterinarian should attempt treatment of this illness. Although antibiotics can be used to prevent additional bacterial infections, they have no effect on the virus. In many cases, the most any vet can do is correct dehydration with intravenous fluids and prescribe medications that deal with vomiting and diarrhea. It is possible for a dog to fully recover if it has a strong immune system but there is a chance that it will suffer CNS problems up to 3 months later. Dogs that fully recover do not carry or spread the virus.

As distemper in dogs is such a powerful virus, inoculation is essential as it can prevent your pet from ever contracting the disease. Puppies should be given the vaccine before they are 2 months old as they are especially susceptible to the virus. Any dog that catches the virus must be isolated and treated immediately as distemper in dogs spreads with amazing speed.

See also: Bordetella Vaccine for Dogs & Cats

Image source: Creative Commons (view source)

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