Canine distemper is a highly contagious and an often fatal viral disease that affects canines, especially the young ones. It is caused by the canine distemper virus (CDV). This virus primarily affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of infected animals. Some things you should know about this disease are given below:
The virus is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory secretions or urine of infected animals. It can also be spread by contaminated objects like food bowls and bedding. Inhalation of airborne droplets from infected animals is another mode of transmission.
Treated and recovered dogs can shed and spread the virus for upto 6 months after recovery. It can affect puppies and dogs of all age groups however, vaccinated puppies and dogs are at a lower risk of acquiring this disease.
The clinical signs of distemper can vary widely depending on the strain of the virus and the affected animal's immune response. Common symptoms include:
Loss of appetite
Neurological signs like: Seizures, Muscle twitches ,Paralysis
Veterinarians typically diagnose distemper based on clinical signs, history, and laboratory tests. Blood tests can detect the presence of antibodies against CDV or the virus itself. Additional diagnostic tools like polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and immunohistochemistry may be used for confirmation.
Vaccination is the most effective way to protect dogs against canine distemper. Puppies should receive the puppy DP vaccination between 4-6 weeks of age followed by the regular vaccination schedule (including boosters) every 3 weeks till they are 4 months old.
Adult dogs should receive regular booster shots to maintain their immunity. Consult with a veterinarian to determine the appropriate vaccination schedule for your dog.
Treatment and Recovery
There is no specific antiviral treatment for canine distemper. However, research has supported the effect of some antivirals on these cases.
Supportive care is essential, which may include intravenous fluids, nutritional support, antibiotics to prevent secondary infections, and medications to manage symptoms like fever and diarrhea. Hospitalization is often required for severe cases.
Early veterinary care
If you notice any signs or symptoms of canine distemper in your dog, it is crucial to seek veterinary care promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment can help improve the chances of recovery and reduce the severity of symptoms.
It's important to note that while vaccination significantly reduces the risk of canine distemper, it does not provide 100% protection. Some vaccinated dogs may still contract the disease, but their symptoms are usually milder than those in unvaccinated dogs.
Regular vaccination, coupled with good hygiene practices and minimizing contact with infected animals, is the best approach to protect your dog against this potentially serious disease.