Canine Distemper is a common and often fatal disease of dogs. It is caused by a virus and is spread most often when animals come in contact with the bodily secretions of other animals that are infected with the disease. Pet owners can also unknowingly bring the infection home on clothes, shoes or car tires. Even indoor pets are not free from the threat of distemper as it is also an airborne virus and can infect pets through open windows and doors.
Over 50% of dogs and 80% of puppies who become infected with distemper will die. Of those who survive, many will have permanent damage to their nervous systems and will suffer from seizures or paralysis for the rest of their lives.
The frequency with which Distemper occurs in the world´ s canine population coupled with the severity of the disease make regular vaccination the only responsible choice for any pet. Most veterinarians recommend euthanasia for dogs that develop the disease.
The symptoms most commonly associated with Distemper are red, runny eyes and a nasal discharge. Dogs seem to just have a cold at first but the disease worsens rapidly. Vomiting, diarrhea and fever soon develop, followed by various disorders of the nervous system. Puppies three to six months old seem particularly susceptible to the disease. Fortunately, Canine Distemper is easily preventable. Puppies require a series of vaccinations beginning when they are six to eight weeks of age. These vaccinations are repeated at three to four week intervals until a high level of immunity is achieved. Yearly boosters thereafter keep dogs safe from infection. Currently, there are no drugs available that will cure Distemper. As with most viruses, supportive treatment to strengthen and nourish the body and prevent secondary infection is all that can be done.
When recovery occurs, it is a lengthy process and as stated earlier, most dogs who survive are left with life-long debilitating conditions. Until your puppy or dog receives his Distemper vaccination, keep him away from areas such as parks or kennels or any area where he is likely to come in contact with other dogs. This will help minimize the risk of exposure to this serious disease.