Distemper in dogs is observed all throughout the world, although due to the widespread use of effective vaccines, it is far less prevalent than it was in the 1970s. It is still seen in low-vaccination-rate communities and stray dogs. The virus could live on in recovered carrier dogs and wildlife such as skunks and raccoons. It is critical to continue vaccinating our dog population to prevent canine distemper from re-emerging as a significant killer of canines.

Here are the basics, signs, treatment choices, and prevention strategies that every dog owner should be aware of when it comes to distemper.

What is Distemper in Dogs

The disease is incredibly contagious and has the potential to be fatal. Distemper in dogs is caused by a paramyxovirus linked to the viruses that cause measles and rinderpest. It infects the host and causes serious sickness by attacking various body systems, resulting in a broad infection that is complex to treat.

 Distemper symptoms for dogs can vary from mild cold-like symptoms to seizures and death. It spreads by air bodily fluids (such as urine and saliva) and can live in an infected dog's environment.

distemper in dogs

Canine distemper is a threat to all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies under four months old are especially vulnerable. If your puppy exhibits any signs of distemper, contact your veterinarian right once.

How Does Distemper in Dogs Spread?

Distemper in dogs can be contracted in three ways:

  1. By coming into contact with an infected animal or thing.
  2. Through airborne exposure.
  3. By way of the placenta.

Like the common cold in people, canine distemper is transmitted through direct touch or airborne exposure when an infectious dog or wild animal coughs, sneezes, or barks, aerosol droplets are released into the surroundings, infecting neighbouring animals and surfaces such as food and water bowls.

However, the virus does not survive long in the atmosphere, and most disinfectants are capable of destroying it. Infected dogs can spread the infection for several months, putting other canines in their immediate vicinity at risk.

Distemper can affect animals other than dogs. Distemper can also infect wild animals such as raccoons, foxes, wolves, coyotes, skunks, ferrets, and mink. This means that if there is a distemper outbreak in the local wildlife population, dogs are at risk of contracting the disease even if they do not encounter other dogs.

Female dogs can also pass the virus to their puppies via the placenta, so it is critical to vaccinate any dog you intend to breed completely.

Distemper Symptoms For Dogs - What to Look For?

distemper in dogs

Distemper in dogs shows a wide variety of symptoms depending on how far the disease has progressed in their bodies. This causes two stages of symptoms.

Initial Stage:

The first sign of canine distemper is usually watery to pus-like discharge from the eyes, fever, appetite loss, and clear nasal discharge. Most infected dogs develop a fever three to six days after being infected. In general, the following distemper symptoms for dogs are related during the early stages of infection:

  • Fever
  • Clear nasal discharge
  • Purulent eye discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Pustular dermatitis (rarely)
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord

A secondary bacterial illness that occurs when the distemper virus impairs a dog's immune system is one of the other hazards linked with distemper in dogs. Secondary bacterial infections can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Change in respiratory rate
  • Pneumonia

Advanced Stage:

As the disease advances, some dogs suffer neurological symptoms and target the central nervous system. These signs are especially upsetting for owners.

  • Head tilt
  • Circling
  • Partial or full paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Nystagmus (repetitive eye movements)
  • Muscle twitching
  • Convulsions with increased salivation and chewing motions

Numerous diseases produce diarrhoea and vomiting and some that cause similar respiratory and neurological symptoms, but only a few cause all of these at the same time.

How to Treat Distemper in Dogs

Distemper in dogs is diagnosed by veterinarians based on clinical signs and laboratory testing. There is no treatment for canine distemper. Treatment typically comprises supportive care, measures to prevent distemper symptoms for dogs, and fluid treatment to combat dehydration. Canine distemper infected dogs must be kept away from other dogs to reduce the danger of future infection.

distemper in dogs

Diagnosing: A variety of tests can identify distemper in dogs. Biochemical tests and urine analysis are the two most popular forms. If your dog has a low number of lymphocytes, biochemical tests will indicate this, and urine analysis will detect viral antigens. They show that the body is fighting an illness and which infection it is most likely fighting. If a neurological injury is suspected, a CT scan or MRI may be necessary to evaluate whether any lesions on the brain have formed.

Treatment: Because there is no cure for CDV, treatment focuses on symptom relief once the disease has been identified. Because there are several strains of CDV and each canine's condition advances differently, most treatment approaches differ. After a dog has been evaluated, the contracted strain is confirmed, and their current state is known, treatment planning begins. Outside of the medication offered by our veterinarian, it is critical to keep an eye on your dog for signs of dehydration or pneumonia.

The cost of treating distemper varies depending on the intensity of the ailment. Some dogs may not need to be hospitalised, whilst others may need hospitalisation and intensive care.

Recovery: Canine Distemper Disease can be completely recovered from. The strength of the dog's immune system and the strain of distemper they have infected usually determine recovery. It can take up to two months to heal completely. The speed with which you respond to probable CDV symptoms affects your pet's chances of survival. According to studies, canines immunised up to four days after catching the sickness still receive protection and recover totally. We strongly advise you to seek emergency veterinarian assistance if you feel your pet has been exposed to the disease.

Monitoring: Distemper-infected dogs must be continuously observed during therapy and recovery. Some dogs will have long-term issues as a result of the disease, necessitating continuous therapy and regular physical checkups to monitor and control symptoms.

Please reach out to your vet if you have any questions concerning Canine Distemper or believe your pet has been exposed to the disease.

Distemper in Dogs - Treatment at Home

When caring for a dog with distemper, the first step is to detect distemper symptoms for dogs. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, contact your veterinarian and keep your ill dog separate from other pets. When treating your dog, make sure they are properly hydrated. If your dog refuses to drink, you may have to use a syringe to administer water to them. Finally, in the later stages of distemper, your dog may develop neurological disorders such as seizures. If your dog has a seizure, stay cool and console him before and after the episode.

distemper in dogs

Recognize the signs. The initial sign of distemper in dogs is discharge from the eyes, ranging from watery to pus-like. Your dog may also develop a fever, cough, nasal discharge, lethargy, vomit, decreased appetite, and diarrhoea. Keep your dog away from other dogs and animals. If you fear your dog is sick or is on the verge of getting distemper, keep your dog isolated from any other pets you own. If you notice early signs of distemper in your dog, call your veterinarian.

Make certain that your dog keeps warm. It is critical to keep your sick dog warm, especially if it has a fever and chills. Provide extra blankets or bathrobe for your dog to keep him warm. Fill a hot water bottle halfway with hot water to add extra warmth.

Keep an eye on your dog's water and food intake. If your dog's water bowl is still full after an hour or two, consider placing the bowl in front of your dog. If your dog refuses to drink, you will have to administer fluids manually. A dog should consume one ounce of water per pound of bodyweight. Do not feed the dog if he is vomiting. If your dog refuses to drink water, you will need to rehydrate him with a syringe manually. If your dog refuses to consume canned food, you will need to liquefy it and administer it with a syringe. You can also provide your dog with healthy beverages such as basic chicken broth (without onions and spices). The chicken broth will supply nutrition to your dog, but it will also keep him hydrated.

Recognize the signs of an impending seizure. After your dog has recovered from respiratory symptoms, nausea, and diarrhoea, they may experience neurological issues such as seizures, twitching, and paralysis. Do not be alarmed if your dog begins to seize. Instead, use a soothing, reassuring tone of voice when speaking to your dog. Remove any sharp things from your dog's path. When the episode is over, immediately console your dog. Your dog will be disoriented and puzzled. Pet your dog and talk to it in a soothing voice to make it feel better. Please get in touch with your veterinarian.

Simple Steps to Prevent Distemper in Dogs

Distemper in dogs is completely avoidable. There are various things you can do to keep your dog from getting distemper:

  • Ensure that your puppy receives the entire course of distemper immunizations.
  • Adult dogs should receive extra distemper vaccine boosters after the initial puppy vaccine boosters.
  • Ensure that your dog's distemper immunizations are up to date and that there are no gaps in vaccinations.
  • Keep sick animals and wildlife away from your dog.
  • Vaccinate your pet ferrets against distemper.
  • Avoid socialising your puppy or unvaccinated dog in places where dogs congregate, such as dog parks, classes, and pet daycare.
  • Keep a healthy diet and regular exercise to improve their immune system.

You can protect your dog against distemper by following these instructions. If you have any further questions concerning canine distemper, consult your veterinarian, and contact your veterinarian right away if you suspect your dog is suffering from canine distemper.

Should You Vaccinate Your Dog?

Distemper in dogs, like kennel cough, is quickly and easily vaccinated against. In fact, the distemper vaccine is so powerful that the disease is rarely encountered in vaccinated dogs.

With one in every five sick dogs dying due to complications such as pneumonia or neurological symptoms like brain difficulties - both of which can be caused by a weakened immune system – it's critical to get new puppies vaccinated and keep up with their annual booster vaccinations.

distemper in dogs

Regular vaccination is needed by kennels and pet insurers as a condition of the cover, as well as safeguarding your dog or puppy from this highly contagious and deadly disease.

Distemper in Dogs - Taking Unvaccinated Puppy Outside

Unvaccinated puppies, especially puppies that have only had their first injection, have no prevention against distemper or other diseases. One to two weeks after completing their first immunisation course, your puppy will be safe to go for a walk and meet other dogs. In the meantime:

  • As long as no unvaccinated dogs have visited recently, your puppy is safe to go into your garden.
  • You can take your puppy out in public, but make sure you carry it and don't let it fall to the ground.
  • Enrolling your puppy in a puppy class is fine as long as they are healthy. The advantages greatly outweigh the minor chance of contracting distemper from another puppy.

Final Words

Distemper in dogs is a devastating disease. Because there are no full-proof cures, vets usually treat the symptoms to relieve pain. There is no guarantee that your dog will heal completely; it primarily depends on the immune system. Use a playpen or mesh gate by Dry Paws to isolate the diseased dog from others. Our playpen has enough space for your dog to enjoy its own comfy space. Place a pee pad, food, a water bowl, and some toys to keep them entertained. It is, however, readily avoidable. Vaccination is mandatory. If you observe any symptoms, be sure to get in touch with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

March 29, 2022 — Inamul haque