What Are the Symptoms of Distemper in Dogs?

Distemper is a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease that affects dogs of all ages. The most common symptoms of distemper are fever, runny nose, and watery eyes. Other symptoms include coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and paralysis. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to the success of treatment. Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms of distemper in dogs and how to protect your pet.

How is distemper spread?


Dogs and puppies are commonly infected with distemper, a highly contagious virus that can cause severe health problems. The virus is airborne and can be spread through sneezing and coughing. Additionally, the virus can also be spread through common food and water bowls, toys, and items. Infected dogs could shed the virus for months, and mother dogs can pass it to their unborn puppies.

As canine distemper can also affect wildlife populations, contact between wild animals and pet dogs can easily spread the virus. For example, an outbreak of canine distemper in a local raccoon or skunk population can signal an increased risk for pet dogs in the area. All dogs are at risk, but puppies younger than four months old and dogs that have not been vaccinated against canine distemper are at increased risk of acquiring the disease.

What are the symptoms of distemper?

As discussed, distemper is a virus that affects dogs and other animals, including ferrets, raccoons, and foxes. The virus attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Symptoms of distemper in dogs include fever, coughing, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea, runny nose and eyes, and loss of appetite and energy levels. You might also notice behavioral changes such as irritability or lethargy and seizures. In severe cases, the dog may develop pneumonia or inflammation of the brain, which can be fatal.

The virus also damages the nervous system, which can cause circling behavior, head tilt, muscle twitches, and convulsions with jaw chewing movements and salivation. The virus could sometimes also cause the footpads to thicken and harden. If you suspect that your dog has contracted distemper, you must contact your vet as soon as possible.

How is distemper diagnosed and treated?


If you take your dog to be evaluated for distemper, your veterinarian will likely use clinical appearance and laboratory testing to diagnose the virus. Currently, there is not a known cure for the canine distemper virus. As a result, treatment usually focuses on supportive care to mitigate secondary infections. Supportive care includes medications and fluids to control vomiting, diarrhea, neurologic symptoms, and dehydration. If a dog is infected with canine distemper, it must be separated from other animals to reduce the risk of further infection.

How can you protect your dog against distemper?

There are a few things you can do to help prevent your dog from getting distemper. First, make sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations. A series of vaccinations are administered to puppies to improve immunity. Additionally, your dog will require annual vaccinations to stay fully immunized. You must avoid gaps in the immunization schedule to ensure that your dog is always up to date.

Further, keep your dog away from other animals that may be infected. This means trying to avoid contact with wildlife and taking caution when socializing puppies or unvaccinated dogs at parks, puppy classes, and doggy daycare. And finally, if you think your dog may have distemper, take them to the vet as soon as possible.

Distemper is a very serious disease that can be fatal to dogs. It is important to get your dog vaccinated against distemper and to seek veterinary care if your dog shows any of the symptoms of distemper. Preventive measures are the best way to protect your pet. However, early treatment is essential to improving the chances of survival.