Distemper, also known as canine distemper virus (CDV), is a viral disease that affects dogs. The disease is incurable and is very dangerous. Distemper is contagious and can be fatal.

Preventing Distemper

The best way to prevent your dog from getting distemper is to have him vaccinated as soon as possible. A vaccine for distemper was discovered in the 1960s. Since then, distemper has occurred far less in domestic dogs. Distemper affects puppies more often than older dogs, mainly because young puppies have not been vaccinated.

Before the distemper vaccine was invented, distemper was the leading cause of death in puppies. Distemper is one of the few “core” vaccines recommended for all dogs. Core vaccines are vaccines for diseases that are either very common or very dangerous if contracted. Non-core vaccines are only recommended for some dogs and are for less common diseases or less harmful diseases.

Distemper Symptoms and Effects

Distemper’s symptoms will begin to show up just a few days after infection. Fever is generally the first symptom to appear. Other symptoms may take two weeks to 18 days to show up. These symptoms include:

  • changes in the tooth enamel
  • decrease in energy level
  • discharge from the nasal cavities
  • dullness of the eyes
  • excessive diarrhea
  • fever
  • frequent coughing
  • increased thickness of the foot pads (This has led to the disease being nicknamed “hardpad disease.”
  • loss of appetite
  • prolonged shivering
  • redness of the eyes
  • seizures
  • sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • vomiting
  • weight loss.

Not all of these symptoms will occur in every dog. However, if you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, see your veterinarian immediately for treatment options and an accurate diagnosis.

Some dogs may only experience mild symptoms, such as coughing. This can sometimes lead to misdiagnosis, so if you suspect distemper, get a second opinion from another veterinarian.

Some dogs may also develop pneumonia when distemper is present. The disease can also affect a number of systems of the body, including the lymphoid system and the nervous tissues of the body.

How Distemper is Transmitted

Distemper is easily spread and quickly transmitted, which is part of why it’s so dangerous. Distemper can be spread from dog to dog in a number of ways:

  • Distemper can be spread through infected bodily fluid, such as saliva and urine.
  • Distemper can be spread through the air.
  • Distemper can be spread through the sharing of food and water.

Treatment for Distemper

While there is no cure for distemper, the symptoms of the disease and infections caused by the disease can sometimes be treated. A veterinarian can prescribe medications that can lessen a dog’s symptoms and pain. However, prognosis for dogs with distemper is ultimately very poor.

This is why vaccinating your dog for distemper is so important. Talk to your veterinarian about a vaccination schedule for distemper. Generally, vaccinations for dogs are done every year to every three years, depending on the preferences of the vet and the owner and the dog’s particular risk factors for disease.