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The Key To Beating The Canine Distemper Virus Is Prevention
Canine distemper is a highly fatal virus, but pet parents can help keep their dogs healthy with a preventive vaccine and early diagnosis.
Canine distemper is one of the most dreaded diagnoses for dog owners. Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of puppies and dogs. The disease is spread through airborne exposure, like coughing or sneezing, and through sharing contaminated items, such as toys and food bowls.
Unfortunately, distemper is frequently fatal. This nasty virus has a 50% mortality rate for adult dogs and an 80% mortality rate for puppies. We don’t tell you this information to ruin your day, but rather to arm you with knowledge so you can take action to protect your pup from the distemper virus.
Symptoms of Canine Distemper may include:
-Loss of appetite
-Thickening of nose and paw pads
Canine distemper may also impact your pet’s nervous system and cause swelling around the brain. This can lead to the following neurological symptoms:
-Involuntary eye movements
-Paralysis or partial paralysis
If your puppy or dog starts showing any of these symptoms, immediately contact your veterinarian for guidance and isolate him from other dogs. Diagnosing distemper can be complicated because symptoms can take a while to appear, and secondary infections are common. The incubation period varies from one week to one month, with some neurological symptoms taking several months to appear. But the sooner your pet is diagnosed and receives supportive care, the better his prognosis will be. Note that puppies under 4 months old are most at risk because their immune systems are still developing and they can’t be fully vaccinated against this virus yet.
Because canine distemper is a virus and not a bacterial infection, it can’t be treated with antibiotics. In fact, there is no known cure for this disease. It simply has to run its course. Ultimately, your pet’s prognosis will depend on the strength of their immune system and the severity of the strain your dog has contracted. Your vet may be able to better your dog’s chances for survival by hospitalizing your pet to provide supportive care, such as administering IV fluids and nutrition, electrolytes, fever reducers, pain relievers, anti-seizure medication, and broad-spectrum antibiotics to prevent secondary infections.
While canine distemper is difficult to treat, many pets do recover and live happy and healthy lives. While this is a dangerous disease, it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. While some dogs with more mild cases will recover in about two weeks, others will be battling canine distemper for months before they are healthy again or ultimately perish. In some cases, dogs that recover will have lasting disabilities or side effects from the neurological damage that may or may not impact their quality of life. Because of the severity and uncertainty that comes with canine distemper, early detection and prevention are important for protecting your pet from this nasty disease.
When it comes to canine distemper, the best course of treatment is prevention. Luckily, there is a highly effective vaccine. According to recent data, the canine distemper vaccine is safe and nearly 99% effective, with dogs developing a significant amount of protective immunity within a few days of vaccination. Your dog’s best defense against canine distemper is this vaccine because it makes it highly unlikely that your dog will contract the virus or spread it, even if he is exposed. If your dog does become sick, which is unlikely, his symptoms should be mild.
Puppies can receive their first distemper vaccination at six weeks old, and should continue to receive booster shots with their other puppy vaccinations every three to four weeks until they reach 16 weeks of age. Once your puppy is done with his puppy shots, he should receive a distemper vaccine booster the following year. After that, dogs should receive a booster shot every one to three years for maximum protection. Additionally, it’s a good idea to isolate puppies until they have received all their puppy vaccines for their own safety. Your vet will help guide you throughout the vaccination process and make a schedule that’s right for your dog.
While distemper is a scary and difficult-to-manage disease, it’s not a death sentence for your dog, especially if you can identify the signs and symptoms early. However, any pup that contracts this virus is probably in for a tough battle. But despite the severity of this illness, it’s not one that’s talked about often. We think that’s something that needs to change because knowledge and awareness give you the power to take preventative action. Pet owners need to know the signs and symptoms of canine distemper, as well as how important the vaccine is, to keep their dogs happy and healthy.