Many dog owners have heard of distemper and how their dogs should be vaccinated against this potentially dangerous, sometimes fatal disease. Distemper is a highly contagious virus found in domestic dogs. A dog that has distemper can pass this disease to another dog through its breath and nasal secretions. An unvaccinated dog is also capable of getting the distemper virus from raccoons, skunks, foxes, ferrets and other carnivores.
Signs that you may see may include loss of appetite, loss of energy, coughing, fever, discharge from the dog’s nose and eyes, hardening of the nose and foot pads, possibly seizures and sometimes paralysis of the limbs. Some dogs will successfully fight off the virus using their immune systems and not get sick. Other dogs might only be able to fight off a portion of the disease, and sick/weak or dogs with compromised immune systems might not be able to combat the disease at all. A blood test and/or other lab tests can be performed by your veterinarian to confirm a diagnosis of distemper. If your dog is diagnosed with distemper, you should know that unfortunately there is no cure. Antibiotics can be used to help fight off secondary infections and your vet can prescribe other medications to help control coughing and seizures. Most otherwise healthy dogs that get veterinary treatment do tend to recover from distemper but sometimes seizures and/or twitching can be a lasting consequence of having had the disease.
The best solution for prevention is to vaccinate your puppy or dog against the distemper virus. It has proven to be extremely effective in combating the disease. The distemper vaccination like other vaccinations can cause allergic reactions, but it is generally regarded as a very safe vaccine. Puppies can receive the vaccine which comes in the form of a series of injections as early as 6 weeks of age. Adult dogs that have never received the vaccine and do not currently have distemper should also be vaccinated as soon as possible due to how contagious the disease is. Distemper is still a huge problem and was at one time the leading cause of death in puppies that never received the vaccine.