Viral Canine Distemper Disease in Dogs

Among many viral diseases in mammals, canine distemper is another viral disease that mostly attacks domestic mammals but has also been found in wildlife animals. Before deciding to adopt any dog as a pet, it is essential to educate yourself of their necessities and medical needs, possible infections, viruses, and vaccinations.

Canine distemper in dogs: 

Canine distemper is a highly contagious disease caused by the paramyxovirus that spreads from one animal to another very quickly. in dogs. The virus has proved to do some severe damage to the respiratory, gastrointestinal part and nervous system.

The virus is airborne and spreads in the air by the droplets of sneezing or coughing of an infected animal. When other dogs breathe the same air, they can catch the virus.

Other than that, mothers can also spread this virus to their children as their bodies are attached through the placenta.

There is no specific age of dogs that get affected by the virus, dogs of all ages and breeds can get affected, but puppies have proved to be weak towards the virus. 

How is the body affected by the viral disease?

The virus affects the nervous and respiratory systems of the body and the gastrointestinal. Listed below are the most noticed symptoms indicating the possibility of virus:

  1. Most dogs experience nasal and eye discharge.
  2. There are cases of mild to high fever.
  3. Sneezing and coughing is a common symptom that further spreads the virus.
  4. In some cases, difficulty in breathing has been experienced by dogs, mostly puppies.
  5. Dogs experience discomfort and pain.
  6. Sudden pneumonia is an indication.
  7. Vomiting and diarrhea.
  8. Often, dogs stop eating like normal.

Other than these, in some cases, neurological symptoms have also been accounted such as:

  1. Production of excessive saliva than normal.
  2. Twitching of muscles.
  3. Abnormal eye movements.
  4. Mild to severe case of paralysis.
Bulldog Lying on Grass Licking Lips

Can you prevent canine distemper?

 Canine distemper can be life-threatening as it affects significant systems of their body and causes breathing difficulties. If lof damage is done to the nervous and the respiratory system, this can cause further difficulty to manage the virus and the isolation that is advised alone. If serious damage is done to the brain, death can occur. Adult dogs have shown to do better with the virus than puppies.

To prevent canine distemper, it is important not to take your dogs around a larger gathering of other animals. Distant socialization can help prevent the virus too. It is also necessary not to bring your dog in contact with an infected dog. To prevent the canine distemper virus, it is important to get your dog vaccinated.

Distemper vaccine for dogs: 

Vaccine for canine distemper is available to create immunity against the virus. It is highly recommended to get your pets vaccinated to prevent catching this virus. There is not one vaccine but a series of vaccines that needs to be kept up to date. A specific vaccine schedule is advised by the vet, which mostly begins from the initial six weeks to a routine of vaccine administration after every three weeks until 16 weeks old age in most cases. The immunity build by the vaccine has proven results to last three to four years. Some dogs may react to the vaccine, but that is very normal, yet must be informed to the vet and be administered.

Options of treatment:

After your dog takes your dog to the vet in case of any symptoms, some tests may be done for diagnoses, but there is no cure for canine distemper in dogs. Yet, there is no need to be anxious about it. Your vet will initially start treating the condition that occurs because of canine distempers such as vomiting, diarrhea and fever. This will help improve the dehydration caused by the virus and the weakness caused by fever. 

It highly depends on the strength of the strain of the virus, how long it lasts and how much time it takes to recover. But, the vet will make sure to prevent any other infections and conditions and put your dog on the road to recovery. Most cases have shown to cure in ten days but it can last more than that.

Possible medication that may be advised:

  • There may be some antibiotics prescribed to help treat pneumonia.
  • Some IV fluids may be used to take care of the dehydration.
  • Some anti-seizure medication may be given.
  • In severe cases, the use of steroids may also be advised as per the prescription.

Side effects of prolonged canine distemper:

An additional condition called, Chronic distemper encephalitis may be caused, which causes compulsive movements such as head pressing or continual pacing. This happens due to an inflammatory reaction associated with persistent canine distemper virus infection in the CNS, but the mechanisms that trigger this syndrome are yet unknown.

In some cases, dogs that have recovered from the canine distemper may have tooth enamel hypoplasia known as a prior distemper infection. This condition includes lymphoid depletion, interstitial pneumonia, epithelium in the gastrointestinal tract, swelling of transitional epithelium in the urinary bladder, and inflammation in the brain which is the most dangerous. 


The symptoms and condition of canine distemper resemble that of other viruses, and people often confuse it with rabies etc. This is why it is important to monitor your dog and take them to a vet as soon as possible if any of the symptoms have been notices so that proper diagnoses, treatment and examination can be done. 

As most cases prove, prevention is the key for canine distemper as there is no cure for it. As much effort may be put into prevention, will be better. The virus gets very difficult to manage once contracted; this is why special care must be taken to prevent it in the first and place and save your dogs from the pain and discomfort that this brings along.

In case of symptoms expressed by your dog or any other animal, make an appointment with a veteran.

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