The Shocking Truth About Canine Distemper

Amy Tokic
by Amy Tokic
A potentially fatal illness, there are things you can do to prevent Canine Distemper from infecting your dog

Let’s start out by saying that Canine Distemper will put you and your dog in a bad mood. A disease that’s similar to the measles that humans can get, Canine Distemper is a virus that’s highly contagious and could kill your dog.

As the leading cause of infectious disease deaths in dogs, you pup will be in danger of catching it if he is not vaccinated. Transmitted through body secretions (feces, drool, etc), dogs catch this illness when it is inhaled. Puppies are most at risk for catching the diseases, around the ages of 6 to 12 weeks of age. You may not even know your dog is sick, especially if he is in good health to begin with. There is no cure for Canine Distemper, but there are puppy vaccinations that prevent your dog from catching the illness.

The Stages of Canine Distemper

The first signs of distemper will appear six to nine days after exposure. The virus first attacks the tonsils and lymph nodes. It takes one week to replicate and moves on to the respiratory, urogenital, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems.

This first stage of Canine Distemper will present in the form of a high fever, reddened eyes, and a watery discharge from the nose and eyes. You may also notice your dog becoming lethargic and will stop eating. Other symptoms include coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea. During the late stages of the disease, Canine Distemper will attack the nervous system and the affect dog may start having seizures, paralysis and attacks of hysteria.

There’s also what is called “hard pad” Canine Distemper. This strain on the virus causes thickening of the pads of a dog’s nose and feet. If a dog as a weak immune systems, it can lead to death as early as two to five weeks after the initial infection.

Treatment of Canine Distemper

There is no cure for canine distemper, so treatment focuses on alleviating the symptoms. Intravenous supportive fluids will be used to treat dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea. Antibiotics can control symptoms caused by a secondary bacterial infection, and phenobarbitals and potassium bromide may be prescribed to control convulsions and seizures. As well, discharge from the eyes and nose must be cleaned regularly.

Preventing Canine Distemper

The best thing you can to prevent Canine Distemper is to have your dog vaccinated. If your dog isn’t vaccinated, there are ways to combat the virus. The canine distemper virus can’t survive for long outside the dog’s body. They can be killed by exposure to heat, sunlight, detergents, soaps, and chemicals.

Amy Tokic
Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic, Editor of, is a passionate animal lover and proud pet parent of Oscar, a Shih Tzu/Chihuahua cross, and Zed, a Japanese Chin. Her love of animals began in kindergarten, when she brought her stuffed dog Snoopy into class with her every day. Now, she writes about her adventures in pet ownership and tirelessly researches products, news and health related issues she can share with other animal enthusiasts. In her free time, Amy loves perusing used book and record stores, obsessing over the latest pet products available and chasing squirrels with wild abandon (a habit attributed to spending too much time with her pooches).

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