What Is Canine Distemper?

Posted by Dr. Roth on

What is canine distemper?

Like humans, dogs are susceptible to a variety of illnesses. One of the more serious ones is canine distemper, a viral infection that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Untreated, it can have devastating consequences. Symptoms from the illness is treatable and pet parents can take steps to prevent it in the first place.


What Is Canine Distemper?

Canine distemper is an infection that can develop when a dog comes into contact with the paramyxovirus. It typically spreads through airborne exposure, such as through a cough or sneeze. A dog may also get the virus if they comes into contact with infected blood, urine, or saliva. 

Which Dogs Are at Risk?

Puppies tend to have the highest risk of developing distemper, particularly if they haven’t received their first vaccines yet. Older dogs who are either unvaccinated or have out-of-date vaccines are also at risk. 

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms can take up to 14 days after exposure to begin showing in a dog. They include:

  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Thickening of the skin on the dog’s nose and foot pads
  • Vomiting

Some dogs may also develop neurological symptoms such as:

  • Excessive salivation
  • Head tilting
  • Muscle twitching
  • Seizures

The earliest signs of distemper could be confused with other illnesses. Pet parents should seek veterinary care right away if they notice any of the above symptoms. Untreated and without the guidance of professional dog advice, canine distemper can be fatal. 

How Is Distemper Diagnosed and Treated?

Early detection is essential if a pet parent suspects their dog may have distemper. The dog’s primary vet can diagnose the virus through a physical exam and lab work. While there is no cure for distemper, there are treatments aimed at controlling symptoms and preventing secondary infections such as:

  • Antibiotics
  • IV fluids
  • Pain relievers
  • Seizure medications

The earlier a pet parent seeks treatment, the greater the likelihood that the dog can recover. In some cases, however, neurological symptoms can persist. In such cases, the dog’s vet may recommend additional treatments such as steroid medications and anti-inflammatories.

Can Pet Parents Prevent Canine Distemper?

Canine distemper is a devastating condition. Fortunately, pet parents can help to prevent it with a vaccine. Puppies receive a series of vaccinations between six and 16 weeks to build immunity. This immunity generally lasts a few years, so dogs will continue to need additional distemper boosters about every three years. Vets set the schedule based on how common the virus is in the area. 

Need a Quick Way to Get Dog Medical Advice?

Canine distemper can be a devastating illness. Fortunately, it is preventable. One of the easiest ways to prevent it is with a vaccination. If pet parents have any concerns regarding canine distemper or their dog’s health in general, they can get access to professional online vet chat using Fuzzy’s 24/7 Live Vet Chat. Visit Fuzzy and sign up to become a Fuzzy member today.

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