Understanding Canine Distemper

What Is Canine Distemper?

Canine distemper is a highly contagious disease that is caused by a virus known as

This is a very dangerous virus and often attacks a dog's gastrointestinal, respiratory,
and nervous systems. As the name suggests, canine distemper is a dog that
primarily affects dogs, however, other animals are also susceptible to this disease,
including minks, ferrets, foxes, and other carnivores.

These animals can spread the disease to other animals, including your dog.

Spread of the Virus Canine distemper is spread via contact with nasal fluids and airborne transmission. Therefore, domestic dogs are infected by breathing in particles that have been secreted by an infected host. Even after recovery, a dog can continue to carry the virus for several weeks. This, in turn, can lead to further contamination if the dog is not properly cared for and even quarantined.

Symptoms of Canine Distemper The worst thing about canine distemper is that the dog might appear normal and healthy for several weeks even after contracting the virus. This often makes identifying the virus during its early stages very difficult. The initial signs and symptoms of this disease include watery eyes, runny nose, and sore throat. This will be followed with a marked increase in the dog's temperature to about 103.5F. These symptoms often worsen within the next several days. The tonsils become enlarged. The dog may also develop diarrhoea at this point. If not treated within four weeks, the virus will start affecting the brain - marked by twitching which later develop into large convulsions.

Risk Is your dog at risk of contracting canine distemper? The answer is yes. Although this risk various with your particular circumstances. Puppies less than four months old are at greatest risk. Similarly, dogs which have not been vaccinated are have a high risk of contracting canine distemper. Therefore, it is wise to always take precautions because all dogs are susceptible to this virus. In fact, at one time canine distemper was the leading cause death among dogs.

Treatment for Canine Distemper Although veterinarian medicine has not yet found a proper cure for this disease, there are treatments that have proven to be very reliable in combating it. First of all, treatment for canine distemper involves controlling the spread of the disease. Treatment also involves controlling the severity of the secondary illnesses which develop, including diarrhoea, vomiting, and fluid discharge. There area also drugs that are used to control spasms and twitches. Dogs suffering from canine distemper should be given proper nursing care to make them feel comfortable. In all cases consult a qualified veterinary professional.

Prevention of canine distemper How can canine distemper be prevented in the first place? Start with simple procedures such as vaccinations. Have your dog vaccinated. Puppies should be vaccinated when they are six weeks old. Also consider revaccinating puppies after every 3-4 weeks until they are 16 months old. This is the only way of truly preventing canine distemper given that there is no definitive cure to date.

When vaccinating your dog, be sure that the type of vaccine being administered has been approved for the type of animal that is being inoculated. Otherwise, it is possible that the dog could actually contract the disease from the vaccine itself. This isn't very common but it is worth double checking (vaccinations against canine distemper for dogs are mandatory in many parts of the United States). And as with the prevention of other types of illnesses and disease, be sure to keep the dog's (and your) environment clean by routinely cleaning with disinfectants and detergents, since these substances do destroy the virus.