If you receive the bad news that your dog has contracted canine distemper, the experience can be quite unsettling, especially if you don’t know how to comfort your dog or where to get help for the problem. To demystify this serious pet condition, we shed light on what distemper in dogs means, how you can prevent it and how it can be cured if contracted.
What is distemper?
Distemper is a pantropic virus that can damage any of a dog’s major organs and also their central nervous system. Although cases of distemper are rare, it can be dangerous: it can be fatal if not caught and managed in time. Once a dog’s brain is affected, they will have permanent and probably painful damage for the rest of their life, in the form of palsy or shaking.
The good news, though, is that there are vaccinations that make the condition less prevalent. So the take-away message here is to vaccinate your dog!
What are the symptoms?
Some of the main physical symptoms of distemper in dogs are a high fever, upper respiratory issues and a runny nose. The first symptom that usually shows up is a fever, while other symptoms may begin to occur a few days later. If the dog’s symptoms are successfully treated, recovery time usually takes about two to three weeks.
In addition to those physical symptoms, dogs may sometimes also exhibit some of the following neurological symptoms: seizures, sensitivity to touch, lack of coordination and paralysis.
What treatment is there?
There is no specific way to cure distemper, so treatments usually involve management of the symptoms. Depending on their symptoms, your dog could be given antibiotics, fluids or other types of medication.
How do dogs get distemper?
The canine distemper virus is contagious but it is only passed from dog to dog and cannot be passed to other domestic animals or humans. The condition is most commonly found in unvaccinated dogs and in shelter animals, so you need to be careful with an unvaccinated puppy. Puppies are more at risk and they have less chance of recovery if they contract distemper because their immune systems are still developing.
How can you prevent it?
The most effective way to prevent distemper is vaccination. When your puppy gets their inoculations, make sure that they are also being vaccinated for distemper – most vets should be able to provide this service. Most importantly, make sure you don’t expose your young puppy to dogs you don’t know until they have completed their vaccination schedule.
* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.
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