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Distemper in Dogs

Distemper in Dogs

Being outside can expose your dog to a number of serious diseases and viruses including distemper. Luckily, there are preventive care options available. In this post, our Eastham vets provide some important information about distemper in dogs and how you can help keep your pup safe.

What is distemper in dogs?

Canine distemper is a highly contagious virus that can affect your dog's respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems. Did you know that the distemper virus has been found to be present in a number of different species of mammals around the world?

What are the causes of canine distemper?

Distemper in dogs is a serious condition that has the potential to be fatal. Canine distemper is caused by a virus that is referred to as a paramyxovirus. This virus is related to both the measles and rinderpest viruses.

This virus can cause so much harm to your dog due to the fact that it will affect multiple internal systems at the same time.

How is distemper in dogs transmitted?

There are a number of ways that the canine distemper virus can be spread. 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 she may be able to pass the distemper virus to her puppies in the womb through the placenta.

What are the signs of distemper in dogs?

Distemper symptoms 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 happens if canine distemper is left untreated?

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

Is canine distemper contagious?

Distemper is an incredibly contagious virus as animals that are infected can not only appear perfectly healthy but can also spread the virus for months.

The canine distemper virus is known to commonly affect puppies. This is due to their lack of adequate vaccinations. That said, any dog that is not fully vaccinated will be at an increased risk of the virus.

Diagnosing Canine Distemper 

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

The Treatment of Distemper in Dogs

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.

For dogs suffering from severe diarrhea or vomiting, they will prescribe medications to ease the symptoms 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 many ways that 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.

Preventing Distemper in Dogs

While being a serious condition, canine distemper can thankfully be prevented. Some of the ways that you can help to protect your pup can include:

  • Keep your dog up to date with distemper vaccinations
  • Prevent your dog from having contact with wildlife
  • Keeping your unvaccinated dog or puppy away from social settings and other animals

If you have any questions about canine distemper and its prevention or if you are concerned that your dog may be showing the signs, speak with your vet. 

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.

Is your dog due for routine preventive care including their distemper booster? Contact our vets in Eastham to book an appointment.

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Eastham Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Eastham companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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