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What is Canine Distemper and How to Prevent It?

Several bacterial and viral illnesses can make your dog very sick, and many of these diseases can be avoided with annual vaccinations recommended by your veterinarian. But have you heard of canine distemper?

Canine distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that affects dogs and other animals. The virus is spread through direct contact with an infected animal’s body fluids, such as saliva, urine, or blood. The virus attacks dogs’ respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems and can lead to severe illness, neurological damage, and even death.


What is Canine Distemper? 

Canine distemper is caused by a virus known as a paramyxovirus. It affects other Canidae family members, such as wolves, foxes, ferrets, raccoons, and skunks. Distemper begins as a respiratory illness but can spread to other body parts, causing gastrointestinal and neurological issues.

Distemper has no cure and is mostly treated with supportive care. It can have long-term consequences and even be fatal. For these reasons, the distemper vaccination, along with those for rabies and parvovirus, is considered a core vaccination.


How to Prevent Distemper? 

Vaccinations are the most effective way to protect against the distemper virus. Puppies should receive their first vaccine between six and eight weeks. Following that, they should get a booster shot every three weeks until they are sixteen weeks old.

Adult dogs should be vaccinated against distemper once a year, and one or two vaccine manufacturers have developed an effective three-year distemper vaccine. Distemper is frequently combined with other illnesses to form a combination vaccination, such as the distemper-parvovirus-adenovirus-parainfluenza vaccine.

If you have a puppy or an adult dog due for vaccinations, exercise caution when socializing with other dogs and visiting places with many dogs, such as dog parks and grooming salons.

In fact, as part of their pet policies, many grooming salons and boarding facilities require distemper vaccination. Puppies under six weeks should only be taken outside or socialized with other dogs once they have received at least two vaccinations in their series.


Is Canine Distemper Fatal? 

Canine distemper virus is a deadly but highly preventable illness that can cause severe and multisystemic health problems in dogs. It begins with a fever and respiratory symptoms but can progress to gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms.

There is no cure for distemper, and only supportive care is recommended. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog exhibits any of these symptoms. Also, make sure that your dog’s vaccinations are up to date.

How is Canine Distemper Spreading? 

Distemper is primarily transmitted through aerosolized droplets from an infected dog’s nose. The illness can be transmitted through direct contact with nasal secretions. These droplets can be licked or airborne due to coughing, sneezing or barking.

Although an infected dog can shed viral particles for months, the virus does not survive on surfaces for long. Unborn puppies can be affected by the distemper virus if their mother becomes infected, so vaccinate your dog as soon as possible if you intend to breed her.


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