Canine Distemper in Dogs

The Festive season is upon us and we wish all our clients a merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Please drive safely! At the moment we have a Distemper outbreak in Moorreesburg! We already had to euthanize a lot of dogs! Please read about Distemper in this newsletter and make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date!

Canine distemper is a contagious and serious viral illness with no known cure. The disease affects dogs, and certain species of wildlife, wolves, foxes, and skunks. Young, unvaccinated puppies and non-immunized older dogs tend to be more susceptible to the disease.

Symptoms of Distemper in dogs

The virus, which is spread through the air and by direct or indirect (i.e. utensils, bedding) contact with an infected animal, initially attacks a dog’s tonsils and lymph nodes and replicates itself there for about one week. It then attacks the respiratory, urogenital, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems.

In the initial stages of Canine Distemper, the major symptoms include high fever (≥39.7°C), reddened eyes, and a watery discharge from the nose and eyes. An infected dog will become lethargic and tired, and will usually become anorexic. Persistent coughing, vomiting, and diarrhoea may also occur. In the later stages of the disease, the virus starts attacking the other systems of the dog’s body, particularly the nervous system. The brain and spinal cord are affected and the dog may start having fits, seizures, paralysis, and attacks of hysteria.

Canine distemper is sometimes also called “hard pad disease” because certain strains of the virus can cause an abnormal enlargement or thickening of the pads of an animal’s feet. In dogs or animals with weak immune systems, death may result two to five weeks after the initial infection.

Causes of Distemper in Dogs

Non-immunized dogs that come into any kind of contact with an infected animal carry a particularly high risk of contracting the disease.

Treatment for Distemper in Dogs

Unfortunately, there is no cure for canine distemper. Treatment for the disease, therefore, is heavily focused on alleviating the symptoms. If the animal has become anorexic or has diarrhea, intravenous supportive fluids may be given. Discharge from the eyes and nose must be cleaned away regularly. Antibiotics may be prescribed to control the symptoms caused by a secondary bacterial infection, and sedatives may be needed to control convulsions and seizures. There are no antiviral drugs that are effective in treating the disease. Dog’s chances for surviving canine distemper will depend on the strain of the virus and the strength of the dog’s immune system.

Prevention of Distemper in Dogs

The best prevention for canine distemper is routine vaccinations and immediate isolation of infected animals. Special care must be taken to protect new-born pups from exposure, since they are especially susceptible to the disease.

If you require more information please contact TAH on 021 91 911 91.

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