Distemper In Dogs: Information, Tips and Treatment

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Distemper In Dogs

Many dog owners don’t know that just like a human the dog is also venerable to many diseases. Out of these diseases, Distemper is one of the deadly ones. It can infect dogs of any breed or any age group. This disease is a merciless killer. It can infect even a dog with good health easily. This disease can take the life of a dog if not treated in the early stage. Even with full treatment, the recovery rate of most dogs is very low. Only a few handfuls of dogs survive after catching this disease. Let’s learn about this disease and how to protect the dog from this disease.

What Is Canine Distemper Disease?

Distemper is a viral disease, which is contagious and systemic among dogs and other pet animals. In medical terms, it is widely known as CVD (Canine distemper virus). This virus has lots of similarities with the measles virus and delivers similar symptoms. It primarily infects the respiratory system of the dog. Later on, it rapidly distresses the nervous and gastrointestinal system. This disease can easily pass through from one dog to another through aerosol droplet secretions. The virus rapidly replicates itself in the lymphatic tissues. During this process, it draws lots of energy from the dog and makes the dog very weak. Apart from other dogs, it can also come through raccoons, skunks, and other wild animals.

Signs and Symptoms of Distemper Disease in Dogs

When a dog catches this disease, it doesn’t show its symptoms immediately. Most symptoms of this disease appear after 4 to 5 days of infection because the virus takes 4 to 5 days to multiply itself in the dog’s lymphatic tissues. Initial symptoms of this disease are

  • Eye discharge

The first sign of Distemper disease is eye discharge. The dog suddenly starts shedding tears a lot. Slowly these tears accumulate and turn into yellowish green gunk.

  • Nasal discharge

With sudden eye discharge in most cases, the dog also suffers from a watery nose. Nasal discharge is very common in this disease.

  • Coughing

Another sign of Distemper disease is coughing. The virus replicates itself very rapidly when it gets into the dog’s lungs. It causes itching and irritation in the lung and forces the dog to cough vigorously.

  • Fever

Fever is a sign of a worsening situation. It indicates that the severe illness of the dog. Along with other dubious symptoms, the dog temperature of the dog rises very quickly.

  • Lethargic behaviour

Once the dog’s immunity system identifies this virus, it put all efforts to fight the virus. In this process, the dog loses lots of energy. As a result, the dog behaves lethargically.

  • Vomiting

After infecting the respiratory system, the next target of the virus is the dog’s gastrointestinal system. The virus severely affects the dog’s liver function and causes the dog vomit forcefully.

Critical symptoms

If the dog doesn’t get proper treatment in the early stage of the disease then all symptoms can become worse quickly. It made the situation more critical than anyone can anticipate. These dire critical symptoms of this disease are as follows.

  • Pneumonia

At the critical stage of this disease, most dogs often suffer from pneumonia. Their lungs get filled with body fluid and the dog suffocates from inside.

  • Diarrhea

Along with the respiratory system, the digestion capacity of the dog deteriorates with time. At the critical stage, the dog suffers from diarrhea and rapidly loses body fluid with stool.

  • Seizures

At the final stage of this disease, most dogs suffer from neurodegenerative disorders. It causes cramps in the muscles and the dog suffers from uncontrolled seizures.

Distemper Disease in Dogs Diagnosis

Various initial symptoms of Distemper disease are quite similar to the common cold. For this reason, many new dog owners fail to identify this disease at the initial stage. Only a licensed veterinarian can diagnose it with careful observation. Most of the time, they use deductive reasoning for initial findings. In case of any doubt, they can ask for these clinical tests.

1) IFA (Immuno-fluorescence assay)

It is one type of urine test. The test looks for virus sediments in the urine of the dog. The biggest benefit of this test is the ease of collecting the sample for testing.  The accuracy rate of this test is quite low. Compared to other tests, the price of this urine test is fairly low. Hence, most veterinarians ask for this test.

2) PCR (polymerase chain reaction)

It is a clinical test based on respiratory secretions. For this test, the veterinarian collects some samples of nasal discharge and sent it to the lab for testing. It is a complicated type of testing and costs a lot. However, the accuracy level of this testing is very high. Unfortunately, the test can give a false positive if the dog has taken a vaccine in recent times.

3) Serology (Blood tests)

With this test, the antibody development against the Distemper virus in the blood can be detected. It is one of the best diagnostic methods for detecting the Distemper virus in the dog. Even though compared to other tests the price of this test is a bit high, but the test procedure only takes a couple of hours and the accuracy rate of the detection is quite high.

Treatments of Distemper Disease in Dogs

There is no specific treatment available for this disease. The veterinarian and the dog owner can only provide supportive treatment for this disease. These supportive treatments vary according to the health condition of the dog. According to the severity of the dog, the veterinarian can advise these treatments.

  • Administering fluids

After getting infected by this disease, the dog loses lots of body fluids. The dog owner needs to replenish it back with fluids. Otherwise, the dog will be dehydrated quickly. Dehydration only enhances the effect of this disease and makes the dog weaker. Administer the dog water, milk, or fruit juice. It will increase the hydration level in the dog’s body and reduce the effect of the disease.

  • Electrolyte solutions

With excess body fluid, the dog also loses lots of electrolytes from its blood. Electrolytes are essential minerals that keep the dog healthy. In absence of these minerals, the blood of the dog thickens. It increases the risk of blood clots and cardiac arrest. To reduce the risk, the owner needs to feed the dog electrolyte solutions every hour.

  • Analgesics

The distemper virus not only affects the respiratory system, but it also causes spasm in the muscles. As a result, the dog suffers from an enormous amount of pain. The dog owner can ease the pain by giving the affected dog analgesic medicines. Common analgesic medicines like meloxicam, deracoxib, carprofen, and firocoxib give good results in this condition.

  • Anticonvulsants

Having brain seizures is very common in this disease. It causes by too much rapid firing of neurons. In such a situation, the dog loses consciousness and shakes a lot. Anticonvulsant medicines can help in such a condition. Common antibiotics like Zonisamide, Phenobarbital, and Levetiracetam can reduce the frequency of brain seizures.

  • Antibiotics

Even though there isn’t any specific medicine available for this disease, but a group of antibiotics can ease some of the respiratory problems. Common cough & cold medicines like Doxycycline and Amoxicillin-clavulanate can give the dog some relief. Therese medicines curve the effect of the disease and improve respiratory function.

  • Antipyretics

If the dog suffers from a high fever, then the owner needs to take immediate action to lower its body temperature. Common Antipyretics like aspirin oral oil suspension can give the dog quick relief. In this disease liquid, Antipyretics is much easier to use, because the dog owner can give this medicine without any worry of choking.

  • Parenteral nutrition

If the dog gets too tired and refuses to it anything by its mouth, then its only feeding option remain is intravenous administration of nutrition. With this feeding procedure, the veterinarian feeds the dog electrolytes, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals. It is a liquid solution, which enriches the dog with essential energy.

  • Nursing care

Along with other treatments, the owner needs to monitor the dog all the time and take necessary action on time. The owner has to feed the dog all the medicines on time. He also has to maintain hygienic conditions around the dog. The recovery rates of most dogs drop significantly less without proper nursing care.

Prevention of Distemper Disease in Dogs

Prevention is the best way of protection. With proper vaccination, this disease can be prevented at the beginning. In medical terms, it is known as CDV (Canine Distemper Vaccination), but most people call them “distemper shot”. This vaccine administers to the dog at the puppy stage. Along with the main vaccine, the dog also has to take multiple booster dosages for lifelong immunity.

Another way to prevent this disease is by keeping the dog away from other animals like ferrets and stray dogs. It is a very contagious disease. Therefore, the owner has to be extra careful when he let the puppy socialize with other dogs. It is always better to keep the dog away from other dogs until it gets the vaccine.


Distemper Disease is a deadly illness. Doctors consider it the next level of a threat after rabbis. Most of the time small puppies become the victim of this disease. Naturally, it is found in wild animals and stray dogs. Most dogs usually catch it when they come in contact with these animals. It is a very contagious disease and spread through dog’s aerosol droplets.

All humans are immune to this disease, but they can easily become a carrier of this disease. Therefore, the dog owner is required to disinfect himself properly after coming into contact with a distemper infected dog. Otherwise, he can spread this disease to other dogs. Kennel owners and operators have to be extra careful about this disease.

Even though the survival rate of this disease is very slim, but recovery is possible. There is no definite medicine is available to fight this disease. But proper treatment in the early stage can increase the chances of survival.