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Canine Distemper-How To Treat Distemper In Dogs?

Updated by Sheryl on Dec 3, 2021

Is there any pet owner who dares to see his dog suffer from a fatal disease? Of course, no one. Have you ever noticed "DHPP" and "DAPP" written on your dog's vaccine schedule? Any idea about what disease it protects from? If not, you'll find all that you want to know about this canine disease.

The "D" in the "DHPP" stands for the distemper, a deadly and highly contagious viral disease that can be fatal if your dog comes in contact with it.

dog take health examination

In this article, you'll discover what canine distemper is? What are the symptoms of distemper in dogs? At what age, it affects canines? Stages of this disease and if there are any chances of recovery from this deadly viral disease. Plus, you'll learn the available treatments and medications for canine distemper.

Want your pet to stay safe and healthy? If yes, don't skip and read the article till the end. 

Let's cover first what canine distemper is? It is a serious and contagious viral disease that attacks dogs and wild animals such as ferrets, raccoons, foxes, wolves, skunks, and coyotes.

Its main cause is a paramyxovirus, also known as Canine Distemper Virus (CDV). The virus spreads quickly and affects multiple systems in a canine's body. The affected organs include

  • Nervous system
  • Immune System
  • Gastrointestinal system
  • Skin and respiratory system

Distemper in dogs can't be cured. But you can prevent it by following a vaccination schedule guided by veterinarians.

distressed dog

  • Through airborne exposure: Distemper in dogs normally spreads through airborne exposure. When a healthy dog or a vulnerable pet comes in contact with an infected wild animal, it catches infection through cough and sneezes droplets. Also, the contaminated food bowls and water causes transmission in healthy canines.
  • Through other dogs: The infected dogs can transmit disease to other dogs for several months. If you are planning to breed a dog, make sure to fully vaccinate at an early age since infected mama dogs can transfers the distemper to puppies through the placenta.

  • Through other animals: If your local wildlife has an outbreak of Distemper, your dog is at a high risk of catching the virus if it comes in contact with infected wild animals.

How Long Does Distemper Last in Dogs?

It depends on your dog's immunity that how long and how effectively its body will fight the Distemper Virus. In addition, it depends on the strain of the virus and the stage of the disease. Normally, the victims of stage one get better after receiving initial medication as a supportive treatment. It may take a few weeks to months to get out of danger.

The dogs with neurological symptoms rarely make it. If they survive, they may experience permanent nerve damage and other issues.

The initial signs and symptoms of canine distemper are almost similar to other common infections. Once your furry friend comes in contact with the virus, the symptoms start to appear in 14 days. Initially, the virus attacks the lymphatic tissue of the respiratory tract. It keeps replicating and starts to infect other parts of their body, like the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, Central nervous system, epithelial tissues, and optic nerves.

Normally, symptoms are different for the two stages of the disease. Also, these signs may vary depending on the response of the immune system of each critter.

Stage One

At first, your dog experiences pus-like watery discharge from his eyes. It is followed by loss of appetite, clear discharge from the nose, and fever. Sometimes the fever develops after a week of getting the infection. Plus, it depends on the severity of the disease and the immune response of your dog.

The general symptoms of the stage first of Canine Distemper include

  • Pus-like watery discharge from eyes
  • sick dog

  • Soars in the skin
  • Clear discharge from nose
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Fever and lethargy
  • Diarrhea and vomiting

Some dogs develop hyperkeratosis if they survive the severe infection. In this condition, your dog's feet become hard and enlarged, which causes painful walk.

The CDV weakens the immune system of your dog. As a result, he is vulnerable to secondary bacterial infections that may cause trouble breathing, pneumonia, diarrhea, and vomiting.

The initial symptoms of distemper are similar to common pet infections. Only your vet can rule out the condition by performing different tests.

Stage Two

As the virus attacks your dog's central nervous system and brain, he may experience neurological signs. These signs include

  • Head tilt, circling, and seizures
  • Irregular eye movements
  • Paralysis
  • Excessive salivation
  • Abnormal mouth chewing movements
  • Convulsions and muscle twitching
  • Death

give a dog a shot

Since canine distemper is a viral infection, it can't be treated with antibiotics. Also, it is not a common illness that can be treated with home remedies. Moreover, it is incurable and needs to be treated by a vet clinic's professional physician. Severe cases require the hospitalization.

Supportive treatments include the use of antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections, diarrhea, vomiting. In addition, your dog will get treatments to restore the electrolytes and prevent dehydration.

Can a Dog Recover from Distemper?

Canine distemper can't be cured. Different dogs respond differently to the virus. Puppies rarely survive since their immune system is not fully developed. The American Veterinary Medical Association explains that if your dogs survive the severe attack of CDV, they will have a permanently damaged nervous system.

However, the recovery rate depends on the strain of the virus and your dog's immune system to fight the disease. Some dogs become stable in 10 days. Others with neurological symptoms may not survive or take months to get out of the terrible situation.

How To Prevent Canine Distemper?

Canine distemper is preventable through vaccinations. Make sure to vaccinate the puppies as scheduled by the vet from the age of 6 weeks. Normally, puppies are vaccinated every three to four weeks until they are 16 months old.

The immunity developed after vaccination is enough to protect your dog for the next three years. However, keep in contact with a vet if canine distemper is common in your area.

Further steps that you should take to prevent your dog from catching the canine distemper virus are:

  • Make sure that your dog is fully vaccinated before attending doggy daycare centers.
  • Put the leash on when going for a walk or camping in the wild. Minimize the contact of your pets to wild animals.
  • If wild animals keep visiting your area, never place watering bowls and dog food outdoors.
  • Regularly disinfect your dog's living area.
  • Isolate your sick dog from other pets as soon as you can.
  • Vaccinate your pet ferrets against the distemper virus by consulting your vet.
  • Ensure to provide a healthy diet to your furry friend. Also, make him follow an exercise program to stay healthy.

Disclaimer: All the mentioned information is for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as health medical advice. Consult your vet for any medical advice related to the health issues of your pets.

take dog to see the vet

1. Is Distemper Contagious to Humans?

CDV can't infect or reproduce human cells. To avoid it, vaccinate your pets at an early age. But it can survive in the human body without showing any symptoms. You should be careful since you can be a carrier of this disease, even if it is asymptomatic.

Also, the CDV can't survive in the environment for too long. It can be destroyed by disinfectants.

2. At What Age a Dog Can Get Distemper?

Dogs of all ages are at risk of getting the distemper virus. Young puppies under 4 months are highly vulnerable before they are fully vaccinated. Moreover, older dogs with immunity issues get seriously ill due to this nasty virus.

3. When to see the vet for canine distemper?

If your dog shows intense discomfort, extreme lethargy, and refuses to eat, drink or pull, take him to the vet immediately to confirm the situation for the fastest and most effective treatment.

Distemper in dogs is preventable but not curable. Maybe your buddy gets out of it, but he'll no more be able to enjoy a healthy life. Bringing a new pet to your home is easy, but caring for it is a responsible task. Be vigilant and keep the vaccination record of your puppy up to date.
Sheryl is an editor from iPetor, owns extensive pet care experience. As a professional writer, she can provide useful pet care tips for all "parents".
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