Distemper in Dogs and Puppies

DistemperWhat is distemper?

Distemper (Canine distemper) is a highly contagious, viral disease in dogs, puppies and some other animals.

It is caused by a virus of the family Paramyxoviridae (genus Morbillivirus), which is by its structure very similar to the human measles virus.

The term “distemper” is associated with the puppies, so many unjustified suspect that adult dogs can become infected.
But it is wrong suspicion because this disease can develop in any dog’s age.

This virus is resistant and its survival rate is extremely high – according to some statistics ranges from 70-90%.
He can especially survive in the cold and because of that frequent infection by this virus occurs in winter.

There are some claims that disease originated from the territory of Peru, and that it was from there transferred to Spain, as evidenced by the first traces of the disease recorded in Spain.
The disease quickly spread through Europe and then all over the world.

Also, besides dogs, from canine distemper virus some other animals can get sick – from the family Canidae (foxes, wolves, coyotes), some of the family Mustelidae (martens, weasels, ferrets, badgers, otters), individual animals of the Viveridae (mongoose, civet) and most members of the family Procyonidae (raccoons).

Pet owners often ask this important question: “Whether people can become sick from canine distemper virus“?
The answer is no – the man cannot be infected.

But it is certainly important to note that this virus can be transferred indirectly.
It means that if the man was in the contaminated area or been in contact with infected animals, can transmit canine distemper virus to healthy dogs, through various objects (shoes, clothing, leashes).

When it comes to dogs, the disease is widespread throughout the world, and it has been proven that some breeds such as Cocker Spaniels, Irish Setters and German Shepherds suffer in significantly higher percentage in comparison to other breeds.


The causes and the source of infection

Source of infection with distemper in dogs and puppies are infected individuals, even those who have already recovered from the infection.

The reason is that they are carriers of the virus and can excrete it for some time, even after the healing.

The virus is present in the excretions of animals – feces, urine, saliva, and in eye or nasal secretions.


Distemper – prevention and vaccination

Distemper vaccine is the safest prevention for dogs

It is performed on puppies three times and it is also prevention from other diseases.

Puppies are immune to the first 5-6 weeks of age, because of the mother’s antibodies which are passed to them.
However, six weeks after birth, it is necessary to start with the vaccination of puppies.
The first distemper shot in puppies must be applied in the seventh week of age, and is effective against distemper and parvovirus.
The second vaccination must be done at the age of ten weeks, and it is against DHPP + L (distemper, infectious hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza and leptospirosis).
The third distemper vaccine is recommended at age of 14 weeks – also against DHPP + L (distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza and leptospirosis).

After that dogs should be vaccinated once a year, against all the above diseases, in order to maintain immunity to the mentioned diseases.

You have to keep in mind that at the time of vaccination the dog must be absolutely healthy and treated against of possible intestinal parasites so that his body can react positively to the vaccine.


Distemper vaccine – price

Indubitably, true animal lovers will never ask the questions about price when it comes to animal health.

However, since very difficult times occurred and the crisis has taken hold in all areas of life, the harsh truth is that many pet owners looking for additional information about the prices of veterinary services in order to financially prepare themselves or to choose less expensive vet.

According to my information, the price of distemper vaccination varies from one ambulance to another, and ranges from $30 to $150 in the first year, depending on the type of vaccination and price list of certain veterinary clinics.

However, my opinion is that in the first place and above all other should be the quality and expertise of a veterinarian, and after that we can think about the price.


Canine distemper signs in dogs and puppies

Which are the most common symptoms of distemper virus?

Any unusual changes in behavior of the dog is a sufficient reason for increased surveillance and monitoring of animals.

Distemper, just like many other diseases even in an early stage have the signs that incompetent people probably would not attribute to this dangerous disease.

But every responsible owner should carefully observe an animal, its health problems and signs of disease and not delay the visit to the vet if notice any unusual behavior or symptoms of the disease.

The first signs of distemper in dogs and puppies occur 3-15 days after infection, and they are very similar to the symptoms of the common cold – fever, poor appetite, runny nose, and watery eyes.
After several days discharge becomes denser and takes on a yellowish color.

Appear some problems with respiratory organs, such as cough, bronchitis, pneumonia.

Diarrhea and vomiting are also symptoms of distemper, and they are a serious threat to animal, because the fever can lead to dehydration.

Another sign of the disease that occurs when the virus invades the skin is hardening of the pads on the paws and mushroom nose.

In the later period of the disease, two to three weeks after infection, can appear nervous symptoms starting as cramps, shaking head and unusual movements of the jaw, which looks like chewing.

Not infrequently occur different uncontrolled movements accompanied with a loss of balance.

Besides prevention, there are some important factors which are the keys in prevention and treatment of this disease.
Those are; the rapid reaction of the owner, a fast diagnosis of the symptoms and the ability of the dog to respond to viral infection.

Therefore, the following distemper signs you should not take lightly, ignore or attribute them to ordinary flu (as is often the case)

– fever
– vomiting
– diarrhea
– runny nose, and watery eyes
– conjunctivitis
– cough
– fever
– poor appetite
– general weakness
– irritability
– hardening of the pads on the feet and mushroom nose
– convulsions and other nervous disorders


The possible consequences

When it comes to distemper it is extremely important the prompt reaction of the owner, because the disease has a very high mortality rate – the only disease with a higher death rate is rabies.

Under the term “timely reaction of the owner” is considered an early noticing of the symptoms and an urgent visit to the vet who will make a diagnosis and determine the required therapy.

This is extremely important because the outcome of the disease depends on the speed of diagnosis.

In particular, when nervous symptoms appear, situation is too serious and then is usually too late to save the animal.
At this stage it is a very small percentage of survival, and if the animal survives permanent negative health consequences are likely to remain.

Some of distemper consequences are:

– impaired vision or complete loss of vision
– loss of hair
– disturbance of smell
– teeth damage
– problems with balance and coordination
– paralysis of muscles or some other parts of the body
– tics and other nervous disorders



Canine distemper treatment

Therapy against distemper will determine the qualified person after diagnosis and review of the animal.
Since this is a treatment of viral infection it is usually carried out with the antibiotic.

Different combinations of drugs can be used for the prevention and alleviation of symptoms such as diarrhea and fever, so as vitamin preparations C, A, D and B to strengthen body resistance.

Keep in mind – the responsibility of the owner is the only and the best protection.

Therefore, you should be responsible and timely vaccinate your dog, to prevent distemper, but also many other diseases!
Photo: Andjelko Radiković

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