The Dangers of Canine Distemper

The Dangers of Canine Distemper

What is Canine Distemper?

Canine distemper is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous, gastrointestinal, and respiratory system of dogs. This deadly disease is also contagious and can be spread to unvaccinated dogs. 

How is canine distemper spread?

The virus usually infects puppies and dogs through sneezing or coughing since distemper can be airborne. Another way a dog can get distemper through sharing food, water bowls, and accessories with a dog who has the disease. It is important to note that infected dogs can continue to infect other dogs for months. The virus can also be passed onto puppies through the mother's placenta. 


What dogs are at risk?

Unvaccinated and vaccinated dogs are all at risk, but puppies younger than four months old have a higher chance of getting distemper. Remember, even though your dog is vaccinated, they can still acquire distemper. The vaccine is used to build immunity to the disease to help fight it in event they get infected. It is very important to always keep track of your dog's health. 

What are the symptoms of canine distemper?

When a dog is infected, they will start to have watery to pus-like discharge coming from their eyes. This is then followed by nasal discharge (mucus coming from their nose), fever, cough, lethargy (always tired), reduced appetite, and vomiting. As the disease progresses and affects the nervous system, the dog will start developing muscle twitches, convulsions with chewing movements as if they are chewing gum, seizures, and paralysis. Also check to see if their footpads start to thicken and harden as this is another symptom of distemper's hard pad disease.

Remember, distemper is often FATAL. Dogs who survive may have permanent nervous system damage that cannot be repaired. If your dog shows symptoms of distemper, go to the vet immediately for a proper diagnosis and treatment. 

 Symptoms of Canine Distemper Neurological Symptoms
  • Muscle twitching
  • Chewing-gum fits
  • Excessive saliva
  • Head tilt
  • Circling
  • Involuntary eye movements
  • Paralysis or partial paralysis
  •  Seizures

How is canine distemper diagnosed and treated?

Veterinarians diagnose canine distemper through laboratory testing. Although some may have remedies and claims about curing their dog of distemper, note that there is no cure for distemper. Distemper is treated through supportive care and by preventing secondary infections from occurring. Treatment is done by controlling vomiting, diarrhea, and by combating dehydration through IV fluids. 

Consult your Veterinarian immediately if you think your dog has distemper. Avoid using unscientific claims or medical advice given to you by a non-veterinarian. Ask yourself if this person is trying to sell you a product. Again, consult your Veterinarian as they have dedicated years of schooling to treat animals.

Please refer to this Administrative Order when using products recommended by non-veterinarians for your dog's safety. We value all dogs, not just ours. 


How is canine distemper prevented?

Vaccination is critical in preventing canine distemper. According to AVMA, the best way to avoid distemper is by following this recommendation. 

  • A series of vaccinations is administered to puppies to increase the likelihood of building immunity when the immune system has not yet fully matured.

  • Avoid gaps in the immunization schedule and make sure distemper vaccinations are up to date.

  • Avoid contact with infected animals and wildlife

  • Use caution when socializing puppies or unvaccinated dogs at parks, puppy classes, obedience classes, doggy day care and other places where dogs can congregate.

Works Cited

“Canine Distemper.” American Veterinary Medical Association,


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