Though most areas in the world have taken care to subdue rampant infectious diseases, canine distemper still proves to be troublesome for many dogs. This disease, which is a ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus has a similar effect on dogs as measles does on humans. The infectious illness assails many animals including domestic dogs, wolves, coyotes, foxes, as well as pandas, ferrets, skunks, raccoons and wild cats. Infection results as an attack the respiratory tract, the spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and the brain. Though cases of distemper have decreased significantly, the disease can still prove fatal for young dogs, and is one of the most common killers for dogs in Scandinavia.

Distemper Symptoms

Dogs from 6 weeks to one year old are at the highest risk of contracting the disease, and can spread the virus through inhalation and close contact with other canines. Though the illness might take several weeks to manifest, some of the below symptoms are:

Gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms

  • Runny nose
  • Coughing, difficulty breathing
  • Conjunctivitis, inflammation of the eye
  • Eye lesions
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Salivation
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Neurological & bacterial infection symptoms

  • Paralysis
  • Myoclonus (muscle twitching)
  • Depression and lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hardening of footpads
  • Seizures

[NB: Some dogs suffer from these symptoms the rest of their lives once they have battled distemper. This may include: eroding enamel on teeth, hard foot pads and noses, deteriorating mental and motor abilities, seizures, and strained eye sight.]

Canine Distemper Treatments

Canine distemper has been combated through vaccinations since the early 1920’s when an Italian doctor named Vittorio Puntoni, first began to develop a vaccine. The shots became more common in the 1950’s, and are now mandatory for dogs in many regions of the United States. Though there is no actual treatment for canine distemper, vaccinations have proven an effective way of avoiding this disease.  Fortunately, if the dog does contract canine distemper, some of the detrimental symptoms can be treated, such as dehydration and fluid replenishment through intravenous hydration. The best way to protect your puppy from canine distemper is to get the proper vaccinations which can guard your pet’s health for up to three years.