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Canine Distemper

Understanding the risks and implications of Canine Distemper Virus

Posted October 23, 2011 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Canine distemper is a very contagious and deadly disease caused by a virus. Dogs and ferrets as well as certain species of wildlife, such as raccoons, wolves, foxes, and skunks, are at risk. Although there is no cure for distemper, the most important fact to remember is that it is preventable through vaccination. For dogs that have developed clinical signs of distemper, the prognosis is very guarded depending on the immune response and severity of symptoms. Dogs that develop neurological signs are the least likely to recover.

While dogs of all ages can become infected with canine distemper virus, puppies—especially those with poor immune systems or those that are unvaccinated or not completely vaccinated—are at the greatest risk for this nasty virus, which is spread through the air or by direct contact. It invades the tonsils and lymph nodes first, and then spreads to the respiratory, urinary, digestive, and nervous systems.

The symptoms of canine distemper depend on the stage of the virus.

Initial symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Watery/red eyes
  • Clear discharge from the nose and eyes
  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

As the virus progresses and it begins to attack other areas of the body, symptoms can include:

  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Odd behavior
  • Aggressiveness
  • Tics or tremors
  • Retinal discoloration
  • Hardening of the pads of the feet

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