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Understanding Distemper in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Prevention

Distemper in dogs, also known as canine distemper, is a highly contagious and serious disease that affects dogs of all ages. It is caused by the canine distemper virus (CDV), which is related to the measles virus in humans. This blog post will provide an in-depth look at distemper in dogs, how it spreads, the signs and symptoms, and the available treatment and prevention options.

What is distemper in dogs?

Canine distemper is a viral illness that targets a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems. It can also affect the eyes, skin, and other organs. The disease is particularly dangerous because it can be fatal and is challenging to treat once it progresses.

What are the causes of distemper in dogs?

Distemper in dogs is caused by the canine distemper virus, a highly contagious pathogen spread through direct contact with an infected animal or its secretions.

The virus can be transmitted via airborne exposure (sneezing or coughing) or through shared food and water bowls, bedding, and other contaminated items. Puppies and unvaccinated dogs are most at risk, but any dog can contract the virus.

How is distemper in dogs transmitted?

The canine distemper virus can be spread in several ways. The most common form of transmission is through droplets in the air from infected pets or wildlife.

Distemper can also be spread among dogs by sharing toys, bowls, and blankets, especially in social settings such as kennels.

If your dog is pregnant, it may pass the distemper virus to its puppies in the womb through the placenta.

Distemper Symptoms in Dogs

The signs of distemper in dogs usually begin with yellow to green eye discharge along with the following other symptoms soon afterward:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Eating less than usual
  • Diarrhea

While some dogs commonly experience common cold symptoms when infected with distemper, some may actually present as asymptomatic.

What are the effects of untreated canine distemper?

If distemper in dogs is left untreated, it can progress to more serious symptoms such as:

  • Tremors
  • Chewing motions of the jaw
  • Seizures
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • Pneumonia
  • Crusting of the nose and foot pads
  • Severe vomiting and diarrhea
  • Death, in many cases

Contagiousness of Distemper

Canine distemper is highly contagious and can spread rapidly among dogs. It poses a significant threat in kennels, shelters, and areas with large populations of unvaccinated dogs. Even after recovery, dogs can shed the virus for several weeks, making isolation crucial during and after treatment.

How will the vet diagnose distemper in dogs?

If you suspect that your dog may have contracted the canine distemper virus, your vet will request diagnostic testing in the veterinary laboratory, along with a physical examination of the symptoms, to confirm the diagnosis.

Distemper in Dogs Treatment Options

If your dog has contracted canine distemper, your vet will focus on providing support and care to help manage the symptoms that your pup is experiencing.

The treatment of distemper in dogs depends on the condition that they are in and the symptoms they are experiencing. The vet will prescribe medications to ease the symptoms for dogs suffering from severe diarrhea or vomiting and recommend hydration options to help prevent dehydration. One of these options may include IV treatments, which can provide all of these treatments in one.

Respiratory illness is one of the many ways this virus can affect dogs. If this is the case for your pup, your vet will offer support and treatment options to help your dog breathe better and recover as quickly as possible.

Distemper in dogs may also cause neurological concerns, which can result in seizures and may be potentially fatal. Your vet will monitor your dog's condition if these issues occur and offer options as needed.

Prevention of Distemper in Dogs

Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent distemper in dogs. Puppies should receive a series of vaccinations starting at six to eight weeks of age, followed by boosters throughout their lives. Other preventive measures include:

  • Isolation: Keeping infected dogs away from healthy ones.
  • Sanitation: Regularly clean and disinfect living areas and shared items.
  • Avoiding High-Risk Areas: Steering clear of places with high populations of unvaccinated dogs, such as shelters and dog parks.

Understanding and recognizing the signs of distemper in dogs is crucial for early intervention and effective treatment. While the disease can be devastating, prompt veterinary care and preventive measures like vaccination can help protect dogs from this serious illness. Always consult your veterinarian to ensure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and receives proper care.

Distemper in dogs is a formidable foe, but with awareness and proactive measures, you can safeguard your furry friend from its grasp.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you need to schedule your pup for routine vaccinations, including their DHPP shot? Contact our vets in Orlando to book an appointment.

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