Bacteria, parasites, and viruses are responsible for a wide range of illnesses and diseases that affect dogs. Canine distemper is one example of a viral infection that is most frequently seen in domesticated dogs and ferrets, but can also affect wild animals. Closely related to the measles and rinderpest, canine distemper is usually prevented through vaccination but remains one of the most common serious diseases that infect dogs.
Generally, puppies between 3 and 6 months of age are more susceptible to the canine distemper virus. The virus is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids as well as through contaminated food and water sources. Certain bodily tissues in the dog, namely the lymphoid, epithelial, and nervous tissues, are particularly susceptible to infection, but once the virus enters your dog’s bloodstream it will have an impact on the respiratory, gastrointestinal, central nervous, and optic systems. In most fatal cases of canine distemper, dogs suffer infections that reduce immune functioning often leading to secondary illnesses like pneumonia, encephalitis, and hyperkeratosis.
There are a variety of gastrointestinal, respiratory, and neurological symptoms that aid in the diagnosis of canine distemper. Some of these symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Excessive salivation
- Coughing or difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Involuntary twitching or seizures
- Chewing gum fits
- Light sensitivity
- Poor motor skills
During the long history of canine distemper, treatment has been relatively unsuccessful. However, in recent years, treatment has moved from palliative in nature to prevention through vaccination. Also, even when vaccination is not possible, canine distemper can often be treated with Ribavirin and vitamin A, Interferon, and other treatments that are used for similar viruses like the measles. Nevertheless, prevention is the most effective way to avoid canine distemper which is why your puppy should be vaccinated.