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If your dog is up to date on their vaccinations, you’ve more than likely heard the term “distemper” mentioned by your veterinarian. It’s a condition experienced by dogs and other animals - especially in the wild - that should not be taken lightly. Are you familiar with canine distemper? Here’s what you should know.


Canine Distemper Explained

Canine Distemper is a contagious disease caused by a virus belonging to the Paramyxoviridae family and it attacks the respiratory, nervous, and gastrointestinal systems of dogs. The disease, on top of being contagious, can also be extremely fatal. 

It spreads by direct contact or through the air, making it an airborne disease. In addition to that, canine distemper can be spread and affect dogs when sharing food and water (among other things) with dogs who already have canine distemper. Another route that passes dog distemper is when a pregnant dog is infected by canine distemper and the disease is passed to their newborn puppies through the placenta.

Because the disease is more common with wildlife animals, the potential of it spreading is high when domestic animals make contact with wild animals. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “Canine distemper outbreaks in local raccoon populations can signal increased risk for pet dogs in the area.”



Common Questions About Canine Distemper


Q: How long does the viral disease canine distemper last?

A: Canine distemper can die down over time, but should never be left without attention.

Q: Can canine distemper be treated and eliminated?

A: Most disinfectants can eliminate the potential spread of canine distemper, however, there is no cure for canine distemper. Treatments are primarily for the prevention of canine distemper, and for dogs that are infected by the disease, their potential of survival depends on the length of the infection, the strength of the affected dog’s immune system and the strain of the disease.

Q: What does a normal timeline of a dog infected by canine distemper look like?

A: According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), “Some cases resolve as quickly as 10 days. Other cases may exhibit neurological symptoms for weeks and even months afterward.”


Spotting Symptoms of Canine Distemper

If your dog has canine distemper, you’ll see a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Watery, pus-like discharge coming from the eyes
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Nasal discharge
  • Circling motions increased
  • Excessive head tilt behaviors
  • Muscle twitches and spasms
  • Chewing gum fits 
  • Excessive salivation
  • Seizures
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • Thickened foot pads
  • Symptoms similar to rabies


What To Do If You Think Your Dog Has Canine Distemper

Seek out a veterinarian immediately. Set up an appointment so you can get a solid diagnosis to confirm the canine distemper and the severity of the infection your dog is experiencing. The veterinarian can provide more information on how to care for your dog as they experience canine distemper.


How To Prevent Canine Distemper

To prevent canine distemper, vaccinations specific to the disease are important to follow through with. This can be as early as puppy stages and distemper vaccinations need to be kept up to date as your dog grows. Another thing to keep in mind is contact with other dogs. Dogs who are not vaccinated can be at risk for infecting your dog with canine distemper so be mindful of the areas you bring your dog to to prevent potential exposure.


For other concerns regarding canine distemper, seek out your trusted, local veterinarian. This is just a sampling of informational posts we offer at Joyride Harness. You can find more tips and tricks and how-tos for caring for your dog on our blog at this section. Feel free to leave a comment with tips you’re looking for!

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