All Creatures Veterinary Hospital

All Creatures Veterinary Hospital
4549 HW 62 West
Mountain Home, AR 72653
(870) 425-5175


Canine Distemper

Canine Distemper is highly contagious and serious disease caused by a virus called Canine Distemper Virus or CDV. The virus attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of dogs. The virus can also infect raccoons, skunks, ferrets, and wild canids such as foxes, wolves, and coyotes. Puppies and dogs become infected through airborne exposure to the virus in respiratory secretion from an infected dog or wild animal. All dogs are at risk, but puppies younger than four months of age and dogs that have not been vaccinated against distemper are at increased risk of acquiring the disease.

The first sign of the disease is eye discharge that may appear watery or pus-like. Dogs develop fever, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, reduced appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. In later stages, the virus may affect the nervous system, bringing about seizures, behavioral changes, and partial to complete paralysis. The disease is often fatal. Even if a dog does not die from the disease, the virus can cause irreparable damage to a dog's nervous system. Veterinarians diagnose canine distemper on the basis of clinical signs, and laboratory testing. Usually, blood needs to be sent out to a laboratory to confirm a diagnosis. Even if the diagnosis is not confirmed, the veterinarian may treat for distemper based on clinical signs and vaccination history. There are no drugs that will kill the virus. Treatment consists of treating the clinical signs such as secondary infections, vomiting, diarrhea, and neurological system, and treating dehydration by intravenous fluid therapy. Ill dogs will need to be separated from all other dogs (placed in quarantine) to reduce the chances of spreading the virus to other dogs.

Vaccination is very important in preventing the disease in dogs. Once a dog becomes ill, vaccinations are of no benefit in treating the animal. Puppies should be vaccinated by a veterinarian every three weeks until the age of four months (four sets of vaccinations). Dogs should have a booster vaccination for distemper every year. Keeping puppies away from sick dogs and puppies will also help minimize risk of infection.

If you have questions concerning canine distemper, feel free to call our office at (870) 425-5175.