What Is Distemper In Dogs – Prevention, Treatment, And Symptoms Of Distemper In Dogs



If you are a dog owner, then you must hear about Distemper. You must be wondering what is Distemper in dogs and want to find all the symptoms of Distemper in dogs. Such diseases are essential to be known in the dog-owner community. There are different reasons for this.

Distemper is a dangerous disease and a life-threating one as you are going to read in our today’s article! Yes, there are different ways to prevent your dogs from developing these diseases. However, knowing your enemy is the best way to fight against it.


What Is Distemper In Dogs

Canine Distemper belongs to the Morbillivirus class of viruses. It is also a known disease for all dog owners if their dogs are up-to-date on their vaccinations. Veterinarian considers this disease serious and contagious. Also, they consider the Distemper vaccine to be a core vaccination along with the rabies vaccines, parvovirus, and canine adenovirus.

This infection affects dogs as well as other species of wild animals such as foxes, wolves, raccoons, and skunks. The virus causing Distemper is a relative of other known viruses to humans and cattle such as the measles virus, which affects humans and the Rinderpest virus that affects cattle. Then we have Phocine that causes seal Distemper. All these viruses are members of the Paramyxoviridae family.

How Is Distemper In Dogs Spread?

First, you must know that Young, non-immunized older dogs, and unvaccinated puppies tend to be more susceptible to the disease. Dogs and puppies are likely to become infected through sneezing or coughing (airborne exposure to the virus from an infected animal).

Furthermore, the infection can be transmitted by shared equipment, food, and water. Also, the mother dogs can transfer the virus through the placenta to their puppies.

As we mentioned before, the Distemper virus can infect wild animals, which means if the virus infects raccoons can be an increased risk for dogs in the area to be infected with the Distemper virus.

To summarize that, there are three ways for this virus to spread:

  1. Airborne droplet.
  2. Direct contact with infected objects or animals.
  3. Through placenta.


Causes Of Distemper In Dogs

Vaccination for Distemper in dogs is an essential step in your dog’s life. Therefore, your dog is at high risk of being infected with the Distemper virus if you didn’t let your veterinarian vaccinated your dog.

We conclude that immunization against the virus with proper vaccinations is so necessary to protect your dog from contracting the disease. 

Symptoms Of Distemper In Dogs

Your dog may experience various symptoms depending on how advanced the disease is and on the severity of the disease. Once the dog is infected, the virus begins attacking the dog’s lymphatic tissue of the respiratory tract, lymph nodes, and the tonsils and starts to replicate itself for around seven days. 

After that, the virus starts moving on to infect other parts of the dog’s body, such as the central nervous system, the optic nerves, GI tract, and the urogenital epithelium.

Of course, all this comes in the way of stages to show such symptoms. There are two stages.


First Stage:

Usually, the infected dogs show early symptoms seen as reddened eyes with watery or pus-like discharge comes out of their eyes, followed by other symptoms suggesting infection in the form of Fever, loss of appetite, and nasal discharge (clear discharge).

However, the initial symptoms depend on the severity of the infection and how the body reacts to the virus. High Fever (103.5 ° F, or 39.7° C) is noticed generally 3-to-6 days after being infected.

In general, the symptoms linked with distemper virus in dogs through the first stages of infection are:

  • Purulent eye discharge, reddened eyes
  • Fever
  • Clear nasal discharge
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Coughing
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
  • Rarely, Pustular dermatitis

Now, if your infected dog survives the acute stage of this disease, your dog may contract hyperkeratosis of the paw pads and nose. Hyperkeratosis of the paw pads will cause your dog’s pads to harden and enlarge in size, which is uncomfortable for your dog. Also, that’s the reason behind the nickname of this disease “hard pad disease.”

Without a doubt, this virus is an ugly one. However, the problem doesn’t stop with its symptoms and damage to the body by itself. One of the significant risks associated with this virus is a secondary bacterial infection.

The secondary bacterial infection attacks the body when the immune system is weak due to the viral infection. With this infection, it causes some damage to the GI and respiratory and show some symptoms, including:

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


Second Stage:

In the advanced stage of the disease, the virus starts to attack essential areas of the body, which puts the dog at risk of a dangerous outcome.

The virus starts attacking the nervous system mainly, which shows neurological symptoms, and these signs are troubling for dog owners. 

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

Unfortunately, even though these symptoms depending on the severity of the disease, The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) mentioned, “distemper is often fatal, and dogs that survive usually have permanent, irreparable nervous system damage.”

Diagnosis Of Distemper In Dogs

Your veterinarian will conduct different biochemical tests, blood tests, and urine tests, which shows abnormal (reduced numbers) results of lymphocytes, the WBC (White Blood Cells), which is an initial sign of abnormal function of the immune system (Lymphopenia).

Also, your veterinarian will ask for a serology test that may identify positive antibodies. Still, this test is not definitive to diagnose the disease because it cannot differentiate between vaccination antibodies and exposure to a virulent virus.

Furthermore, there are more tests to be done that can detect the viral antigens in vaginal imprints or urine sediment. Also, tests for the nasal mucous, footpad epithelium, and haired skin can be beneficial to find antibodies for the virus.

Without a doubt, Radiological images are essential for both diagnoses of secondary infections such as Pneumonia and other complications for the disease. Plus, scans for the brain are crucial to check for any lesion that may have developed, and they use Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for that.


Treatment Of Distemper In Dogs

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for the disease. Vetrianianas go through a sequence of physical and laboratory diagnostic procedures to diagnose the condition. A combination of clinical signs and diagnostic tests, or through a postmortem necropsy are necessary to reach the right decision. 

However, once your veterinarian diagnoses this disease, they will mostly suggest supportive management. 

The management includes various treatments for the symptoms such as treating vomiting, neurological symptoms, diarrhea preventing secondary infections, and dehydration. 

Additionally, your vet will strongly recommend your dog be hospitalized to separate it from other dogs to avoid the spread of the infection.

What Is The Survival Rate

The survival rate depends on the severity of the infection and the strength of your dog’s immune system. However, The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) mentioned that this viral infection is fatal and dangerous. Therefore, some cases can resolve as quickly as 7-10 days. But, other cases can develop life-threatening symptoms, which lead to death within weeks to months of developing neurological signs.

Preventing Distemper In Dogs

Fortunately, Distemper in dogs is entirely preventable. Following these steps can ensure your dog to be prevented against the virus: 

  • You must make sure to give your puppy the full series of Distemper vaccinations.
  • You must avoid any gaps in vaccinations and keep your puppy’s vaccinations up to date throughout its life.
  • You must make sure to keep your dog away from infected animals or getting in contact with wild animals.
  • You must avoid socializing your dog with unvaccinated dogs.


Is It Worth Waiting To See Your Dog Suffering?

Now you know the answer to our main question of what is Distemper in dogs and all of the symptoms of Distemper in dogs. Now, we understand how dangerous this disease to our dogs. It is disturbing to see our dogs suffering from such health conditions; that is why, as I always say, the best treatment is prevention.

There are different ways as we mentioned to prevent your dog from developing this disease, which is the only way to keep our dog healthy and happy and avoid unnecessary health issues, which may cause life-threating symptoms.

Our dogs are part of our families, and it is your responsibility to keep your dog happy and healthy with different diseases from allergies to life-threating diseases such as Rabies.

So finally, I hope you found this article useful and informative. Let me know your answer down below. What do you think about this disease? Do you have more information or tips about What Is Distemper In dogs and the symptoms of Distemper in dogs? Write them down below.

If you have any other questions or different opinions about it, leave a comment below.

Today’s Quote:

“What do dogs do on their day off? Can’t lie around – that’s their job!” — George Carlin


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