Distemper in dogs - Symptoms, contagion and treatment

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The distemper in dogs, Also known as canine distemper, it is one of the most common and lethal viral infectious diseases for dogs. Distemper affects the digestive and respiratory systems of dogs. In advanced cases, it can also affect the nervous system. This disease is caused by a virus of the Paramyxoviridae family, similar to that of human measles..

We talk about a serious illness, It can affect all types of canids, such as foxes, wolves, dingoes or coyotes, however, it is especially common in domestic dogs, mainly in puppies, immunosuppressed adult dogs or unvaccinated adult dogs. Canine distemper is a disease potentially lethal, since there is no treatment.

In this AnimalWised article we will talk in detail about distemper in dogs, the most common symptoms of the disease, the forms of contagion that exist, the diagnosis of distemper in dogs, the measures that our veterinarian can take for the treatment and even some home remedies that can alleviate the symptoms that the dog suffers from. Everything you need to know about canine distemper below.

You may also be interested in: Distemper in cats - Contagion, symptoms and treatment Index
  1. What is distemper in dogs?
  2. How is distemper spread?
  3. Distemper in vaccinated dogs
  4. Is distemper from dogs spread to people??
  5. Symptoms of distemper in dogs
  6. Types of distemper in dogs
  7. Diagnosis of distemper in dogs
  8. Treatment of distemper in dogs
  9. How long does distemper last?
  10. How to prevent canine distemper?
  11. How to care for a dog with distemper?
  12. Distemper in dogs: home remedies

What is distemper in dogs?

Canine distemper, also known as canine distemper or Carré's disease It is a virus belonging to the Morbillivirus genus, of the Paramyxovirus family. It is a viral infectious disease extremely contagious It affects domestic dogs, but also various wild animals, such as: ferrets, minks, skunks, otters, badgers, raccoons, red pandas, bears, Asian elephants, Japanese monkeys and even large cats. It is an especially serious pathology that causes a high mortality.

It mainly affects puppy dogs, although it is also common in adult dogs that have not been vaccinated and elderly dogs. In principle, if we correctly follow the vaccination schedule, it is unlikely that our dog suffers from distemper disease. Currently there is a specific vaccine to prevent the development of the virus, however, the effectiveness is not 100%.

The immunosuppressed dogs, those who cannot make an adequate immune response due to a secondary disease, for example, are more vulnerable to infection even when vaccinated. That is why it is so important to avoid high levels of stress and start any treatment promptly..

How is distemper spread?

The contagion of canine distemper occurs when a healthy animal comes into contact with viral particles found in the environment, in the form of an aerosol. It is closely related to the measles and rinderpest viruses. A sick animal can infect an area, even outdoors, for hours, thus producing contagion between individuals. Likewise, an animal that has already overcome the disease can also transmit it up to four months after having recovered..

The virus replicates in the lymphatic tissue of the respiratory tract, subsequently infecting the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and urogenital epithelium. It also affects the central nervous system (CNS) and the optic nerves. The immunity of the host is what will determine the degree of viremia, that is, the level of severity.

As we have already highlighted, the group at greatest risk are puppy dogs, especially those dogs under four months of age. Although breast milk offers them some immunity, we must take all possible precautions, since distemper in dogs can also be transmitted through the fluids from infected animals, including the remains in the water and the food they have consumed.

Distemper in vaccinated dogs

Annual vaccination of the dog considerably reduces the presentation of the canine distemper virus, however, not 100% effective, Therefore, a high number of cases among the population of our country can cause our dog to contract distemper. For this reason, it is so important to guarantee compliance with vaccination in as many individuals as possible..

Is distemper from dogs spread to people??

We have pointed out that the canine distemper virus is closely related to the measles virus, very common in children, we must know that distemper from dogs is not contagious to people, since it is not caused by the same infectious agent. Thus, we emphasize that canine distemper is not a zoonotic disease and although it can affect other canids or animals, humans are not one of them..

So, when we take care of our dog with distemper we will not suffer any risk nor the possibility of infecting ourselves, which is possible with other of our domestic animals, such as other dogs.

Symptoms of distemper in dogs

In general, once they have passed between 3 and 6 days After contagion, we began to observe the first signs of canine distemper. In some cases they can reach go unnoticed by caregivers, which is why it is so important to be attentive to any abnormal signal that occurs in our dogs.

We will observe transient fever and anorexia (the dog stops eating) while leukopenia occurs, that is, a low production of white blood cells in the blood. After this period of fever, the dog will appear healthy, until a second phase of fever appears, in this case accompanied by a serous nasal discharge, watery or pus-filled. We can also observe mucopurulent eye discharge and that the dog is particularly lethargic, unwilling to do anything.

Gastrointestinal signs appear later, such as vomiting and diarrhea, as well as respiratory problems, which include shortness of breath or cough, caused by secondary bacterial infections. It can also occur pustular dermatitis, that is, a red lesion on the skin that contains areas of purulent content.

Those individuals who survive also develop hyperkeratosis in the pads and the nose, that is, severe damage to these parts of the body, as well as hypoplasia of the enamel of the teeth. Later the neurological signs, including involuntary muscle contractions, salivation, jaw movements, head tilt, or paralysis.

In summary, the canine distemper symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decay in general
  • Weightloss
  • Dehydration
  • Nasal discharge
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Red eyes
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Dry keratitis
  • Corneal ulcer
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hardening of the pads
  • Skin rashes
  • Ataxia
  • Involuntary movements of muscles
  • Seizures
  • Apoplexy

Types of distemper in dogs

In addition to everything mentioned, there are several clinical forms of distemper that is worth knowing, because the clinical manifestation will indicate to the veterinarian which is the most appropriate treatment to apply:

  1. Sharp: is the most common. Incubation occurs between 7 and 14 days after infection, then fever, leukopenia, conjunctivitis and anorexia appear. We will also observe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. Secondary bacterial infections are common.
  2. Subacute: signs that affect the central nervous system develop from a systemic disease, such as acute encephalomyelitis. We can observe involuntary sudden contractions, paralysis of the hind limbs, seizures, pedaling of the limbs, involuntary urination, vocalization, fear reactions and even blindness in the dog. Various symptoms may appear or none at all. Also, some may take weeks and months to appear.
  3. Chronicle: It is rare and usually appears in dogs between 4 and 8 years old. It occurs slowly and occurs as a consequence of an immune-mediated process that causes multifocal encephalitis. The dog begins with hindlimb weakness, paralysis, and head tremors. A good recovery may occur. In dogs older than 6 years it can also appear as a consequence of chronic encephalitis in the elderly dog ​​that includes ataxia, circling movements and changes in behavior. These animals are not infectious.

Diagnosis of distemper in dogs

It is common for owners to wonder how to know if my dog ​​has distemper, since some characteristic symptoms of the disease are also present in other diseases, such as canine leptospirosis or infectious canine hepatitis. In fact, in some cases, the most characteristic symptoms are absent until the disease has advanced. In others, if the individual has suffered bacterial and viral infections, it is very likely that these have masked the symptoms of canine distemper.

Thus, although it is an especially common disease known to veterinarians, it is not always easy to make an accurate diagnosis, so specific tests are required that allow to confirm this infectious disease. To confirm canine distemper, our veterinarian will pay attention to the dog's medical history (symptoms, vaccination schedule, etc.), physical examination and laboratory tests. In many cases there are false negatives.

The tests for the diagnosis of canine distemper are:

  • Hematology
  • Serology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)

Treatment of distemper in dogs

The canine distemper treatment It contemplates an improvement of the individual's symptoms, limiting the advance of possible secondary bacterial infections and the control of neurological manifestations. However, as we have already told you, there is no treatment that allows to eliminate the virus once it has been presented.

Before the appearance of one or more symptoms, we will go to the vet, who will confirm or rule out the diagnosis of distemper in dogs. May prescribe the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, antipyretics, analgesics, anticonvulsants, electrolyte solutions, specific nutrition and certain cares. The earlier the disease is detected and treatment started, the better the prognosis. In the most serious cases, the dog hospitalization at the veterinary hospital to administer intravenous serum and drugs.

It is important to note that no treatment for distemper in dogs is successful in 100% of cases. Likewise, when the dog presents severe neurological signs and progressive, we must know that the prognosis may be unfavorable. In other cases, the signs will persist after recovery.

How long does distemper last?

The prognosis of distemper in dogs is reserved, therefore it is not possible to give an estimated recovery time Of the dog. Their health status, the vaccination status and the care offered by the veterinarian or by the dog's guardian will depend on this. Being a life-threatening disease, we must remember that some dogs do not survive this serious disease. We will always consult with our veterinarian.

How to prevent canine distemper?

The most effective way to prevent the spread of distemper virus in dogs is by following the dog vaccination schedule. The vet will advise us on dosage and frequency, but the most common is that puppy dogs are vaccinated between 6 and 12 weeks of age three times to be immunized. Later, a reminder will be held on a regular basis, usually every year.

Although the labeling of most vaccines indicates annual use, various tests indicate that their effectiveness is around three years. Even so, episodes of stress, illness or immunosuppression can favor contagion, as well as the local prevalence of the disease, which is why it is followed vaccinating every year in a generic way all over the world.

How to care for a dog with distemper?

The care for a dog with distemper will vary depending on the individual. We will take into account your age, the symptoms you present, the clinical form and any other relevant factor that may modify the following guidelines, always prescribed and / or endorsed by our veterinarian trustworthy.

We will strictly follow the medical treatment prescribed by the veterinarian, which may include the use of antibiotics, antiemetics, antipyretics, anticonvulsants and analgesics. It will be essential to respect the doses and hours prescribed by the specialist, very important.

On the other hand, we will offer our dog a comfortable and comfortable environment. You should have a soft and warm bed, completely avoiding humidity, drafts or cold. Especially if the dog shows productive symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea, we will cover the bed with a towel, in this way we can sanitize its space more easily. In no case will we leave our dog outside, it must always be located inside the home if we want a speedy recovery.

In addition, we will observe its evolution, writing down in a notebook the symptoms that we observe to know if they remit or not, taking our dog's temperature once or twice a day and analyzing the color of its secretions and stools. We will share all this information with our veterinarian to guide us regarding care or medication.

The dog should hydrate regularly. For this he we will encourage drinking water, Likewise, to enrich your diet and provide you with extra heat, we can offer you chicken or fish broth, without salt or onion. Another great way to hydrate is by wet food, preferably we will opt for gastrointestinal canned food, of veterinary prescription, that we will find in any health center. Homemade food can also be a good option.

Finally, remember that it will be essential keep you isolated from other dogs, Thus, we will avoid walking him in areas where other dogs are frequently found and we will keep the other dogs in the home away for the time it takes to recover and completely expel the virus, which is around four months.

Distemper in dogs: home remedies

It is very important to note that there are no home remedies to cure canine distemper that are 100% effective, just as there is no veterinary treatment. However, there are formulas to improve the well-being of the individual and their recovery, therefore, if you have been wanting to know more, we encourage you to also know at AnimalWised some home remedies for distemper in dogs that will help you alleviate the symptoms of discomfort that your dog presents, totally natural.

Also, don't miss the video on our YouTube channel:

This article is merely informative, at AnimalWised.com we do not have the power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the vet in the event that it presents any type of condition or discomfort.

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