Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Prevention is the key with this disease. Distemper in dogs is caused by a virus which is spread through most body fluids including saliva, urine, and blood. It is highly contagious and often deadly. At first, the disease mimics kennel cough, with goopy eyes, fever, runny nose, coughing, and tiredness the most common symptoms. Later signs of infection include seizures and paralysis. That’s why getting the vaccination against the virus is critical.
Canine distemper is a serious contagious disease caused by canine distemper virus (CDV), which attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurologic systems of dogs. It’s a highly transmissible virus that can also infect ferrets and many wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, minks, weasels, foxes, and coyotes.
Shockingly, the death rate for canine distemper virus can reach 50 percent, and animals that do recover are often left with permanent neurologic disabilities. There is no effective treatment, but virus-associated disease is largely preventable through vaccination.
Though the disease is less common than it was before the first effective vaccines became available in the 1960s, it is still present in wildlife populations that might have contact with domestic animals.
The incubation period of CDV is typically one to two weeks but can be up to five weeks. CDV is shed (spread) through all body secretions. It can also be carried on the hands and feet. Warm, dry, or sunny conditions will kill CDV, but it is resistant to cold and can survive in near-freezing, shady environments.
The first sign in infected dogs typically is a watery or whitish/greenish eye discharge. Additional initial signs include:
In later stages, the disease affects the brain and nerves, and dogs may show the following signs:
The disease will vary in its symptoms and severity from patient to patient. Not all dogs will suffer neurologic signs and/or life-limiting neurologic impairments.
Diagnosis of CDV infection is difficult because there are few reliable tests for the disease and, in the initial stages, clinical signs can mimic those of other conditions, such as kennel cough. Diagnosis is frequently based on medical history and clinical signs.
Affected Breeds Sadly, canine distemper virus knows no breed limits. Biologically speaking, all breeds are susceptible.
Treatment is limited to supportive care: providing fluids, administering medications to reduce
vomiting and diarrhea, administering antibiotics to prevent subsequent infections, such as pneumonia, and administering medication to control seizures. Severely affected animals may be euthanized to relieve their suffering.
This is by far the most important section for all dog owners to keep in mind.
Because of the importance of canine distemper and its severity, the CDV vaccine is considered a core vaccine by organized veterinary medicine, meaning that all
dogs should be protected from this disease. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent illness and death associated with CDV infection.
The CDV vaccine is typically given in a combination vaccine that also protects against other serious diseases, such as
canine parvovirus and canine adenovirus-2 infections.
Though vaccine schedules may vary, in general, all puppies should receive at least three doses of CDV vaccine between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks, followed by a one-year booster one year after the last dose. Thereafter, booster vaccinations are typically recommended every one to three years.
It is important to remember that a vaccination, even a routine one like a CDV vaccine, is a medical procedure not without its risks, however, the risk of CDV is considered far greater than that of a vaccine reaction. Nonetheless, owners should ask their veterinarians how to monitor their dogs for signs of a reaction. Vaccine reactions are rare, but knowing the associated signs is important.
Other forms of prevention include the following:
This article has been reviewed by a Veterinarian.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Freeway Frida, who was rescued from a
highway median, is headed home with the
police officer who helped save her…
Get expert advice on keeping pets safe
during fireworks, barbecues, hot weather
and other Independence Day hazards.
Meet a dozen cat and dog "foster failures"
who were adopted by their temporary
owners and given homes for…
Many canines who panic at the sound of storms, fireworks and other noises might benefit from these coping strategies.
Just in time for Independence Day, we honor the select few pooches who can proudly claim to be "made in the…
Dr. Marty Becker offers his advice for managing your animal's fear and anxiety toward Fourth of July pyrotechnics.
The medium-size Mudi is a sheepdog
who tends to make an intelligent, active
and easy-to-groom companion.
Parasites are no fun for dogs. Learn how
to protect your canine from heartworms,
hookworms, whipworms and more.
A dog diagnosed with the dangerous parasite may have to take antibiotics, get drug injections and stop exercising.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
Visit HealthyPet magazine for interviews with pet-loving celebrities, health advice from our experts, training tips and…
Thank you for subscribing.