Canine Distemper

What is Canine Distemper?

Distemper is a highly contagious disease seen in dogs but can also affect other species including foxes and ferrets.  Outbreaks of distemper are rarely seen in the UK due to the effectiveness of vaccinations.

What is Canine Distemper caused by?

Canine distemper is caused by the canine distemper virus and is spread by direct contact from one animal to another, usually by inhalation. Infected animals can shed the virus for several weeks after recovery.

Signs and Symptoms of Distemper.

Canine distemper affects multiple body organs including the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract and the central nervous system. Symptoms can be extremely variable and range from very mild to fatal illness.

  • Typical symptoms include:
  • High temperature
  • Discharge from the eyes and nose
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Coughing and laboured breathing
  • Hardening of the pad on the feet and the nose – distemper has sometimes been called “Hardpad”.
  • Occasionally central nervous signs including, twitching, muscle weakness and seizuring.

Treatment of Distemper.

As Canine Distemper is caused by a virus, there is no specific treatment. Supportive care may include intravenous fluids, antibiotics for secondary infections and anti-seizure medication.  In some cases, even with treatment, the disease can prove fatal.

Prevention of Distemper

Dogs who are most at risk from catching distemper are puppies before they have completed their full vaccination course and unvaccinated adults.

Vaccination is very effective at preventing distemper. Puppies require 2 vaccinations which can be given from 6 weeks of age, with the second being given 3-4 weeks after the first vaccination. Vaccination against distemper is then repeated one year later and thereafter is  given as part of the booster vaccination regime.

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