Canine distemper is a viral disease that can affect many different body systems. It can affect the central nervous, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems of your dog. The disease, which usually affects young puppies, is most often fatal.
The virus that causes distemper in dogs is mainly transmitted through the air. After breathing the airborne particles in, your dog will become infected. Once infected, dogs can shed the virus through bodily secretions like feces and urine. They continue to shed the virus a few weeks after the symptoms of the disease have subsided. However, dogs stop shedding the virus after they have completely recovered from it.
As previously mentioned, the canine distemper virus can cause problems with the gastrointestinal, respiratory, and central nervous systems. Common symptoms include diarrhea, conjunctivitis, and vomiting. Dogs may also develop pneumonia and other symptoms of upper respiratory infection.
Loss of appetite, eye inflammation, and fever are also common signs that your dog is infected with this virus. If the central nervous system is infected, your dog will experience depression, seizures, and loss of motor skills and mental abilities. These are more serious signs of the disease.
Canine distemper can sometimes be hard to diagnose since other conditions can cause some of its same symptoms. A laboratory test will need to be done to confirm a diagnosis. There are various methods used to detect the virus and dogs that are affected will have low white blood cell counts.
Since distemper in dogs can cause damage to the intestinal lining, antibiotics may be given to prevent bacterial infections. Medications will also be given to help relieve diarrhea. If diarrhea leads to dehydration, your dog will likely need intravenous fluids.
There is a vaccine available to prevent infection by the canine distemper virus. It is best that all dogs are given this vaccination as part of the normal routine. Your dog may need to receive a booster shot every three years or so depending on the specific shot given.