Canine distemper is a very aggressive, non curable viral disease that can pose a fatal threat to your dog. Canine distemper attacks many of the functional systems including, the respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, and the central nervous system. Canine distemper is present not only among dogs, but other animals such as raccoons or skunks. Since its initial outbreak, vaccines have been developed to control and prevent this deadly viral infection; however it still can remain a large threat to any unvaccinated animal. Puppies up to 6 months are most susceptible to the virus and should be vaccinated as soon as the opportunity rises. Talk to your vet about the appropriate time for a vaccination for your young puppy.
Transmission of the virus is scarily simple. The virus is transmitted through bodily secretions of the infected animal, mainly any respiratory particles, which in turn makes the virus airborne. Even if a dog has recovered from the virus, it continues to shed these infectious particles for a few weeks after symptoms subside. If you have knowledge of an infected dog in your area, avoid any contact with the animal, even for a few weeks after it has recovered. Once a dog is fully recovered, it will no longer transmit contagious particles.
The canine distemper virus consists of many symptoms, and can easily be confused with other illnesses. Once a dog is infected with the virus, it begins to spread rapidly through the lymphatic system, this occurs within 3 to 5 days of the initial infection. By the ninth day, it will spread into the bloodstream and then move into the lining of the urogenital, gastrointestinal, respiratory and central nervous systems. At this point, the virus has taken hold and begins wreaking havoc on your dog’s health.
The first symptoms that occur tend to be slight inflammation of the eyes, loss of appetite and fever; these symptoms will only last a few days and serious symptoms will then follow. The fever may come and go within a few days, but discharge from the eyes and nose will begin to be noticeable in addition to the continuing loss of appetite and an overall decrease in energy. Your dog may show signs of depression. After the fever occurs, symptoms will vary depending on your dog’s immune defense and the strength of the virus. Possible symptoms include, but are not limited to, diarrhea, vomiting, cough or a hard time breathing, and discharge from eyes and nose. Other symptoms that are more sever are inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, but these also may vary. Other symptoms that are present in the later stages are eye inflammation (inflammation of the cornea and retina), lesions (small cuts) on the retina, and blindness due to inflammation of the optical nerve.
The most common reasons that dogs die from distemper are from the damage done to the central nervous system such as loss of muscle control, depression, muscle spasms and extreme pain, paralysis (both partial and complete), mental deterioration, and seizures.
While death is not the case with all cases of canine distemper, it is extremely important to monitor your pet’s well-being at all times. Avoid contact with any dog that has been recently infected and if your dog shows persisting symptoms, make sure they are given medical attention immediately. Talking to your vet about vaccinations and other measures to protect your pet are highly advised and recommended as well.