I feel pretty confident that my two dogs are safe from canine distemper, but are they really? They’re both 7 years old and, depending on the veterinarian you talk to, should both be due for boosters against canine distemper.
I really hope you’re not worried that your dog has distemper, but if you are, I’m going to talk about the symptoms to watch for, and the benefit of the canine distemper vaccine.
I want you to keep in mind that if your dog was vaccinated against the virus as a pup, there’s a good chance that it’s still working.
ISN’T CANINE DISTEMPER ONE OF THOSE DISEASES THAT DISAPPEARED ALONG WITH POLIO AND SMALLPOX?
Actually, it’s still around and unless dog owners around the world are doing their part to ensure proper vaccinations, there’s a chance the disease could make a come-back.
Canine distemper is a serious illness with no known cure. It affects:
- Pet dogs
YES, Animals can catch canine distemper from each other!
Did you see what I did there? I answered your question before you had a chance to ask.
Any dog that has come into contact with the virus whether it be through shared drinking water, particles in the air, or a bite from another animal, is at risk of catching the deadly virus.
Not sure if your dog is due for a booster? Call your veterinarian or dig out your dog’s health file.
SO, WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CANINE DISTEMPER?
Symptoms of canine distemper include:
- Enlarged lymph nodes in your dog’s neck. Distemper enters the body and first settles in the lymphatic system.
- The virus replicates itself until there is enough of the virus to attack the lungs, gastrointestinal lining, urogenital system, and the dog’s nervous system.
- Early signs of canine distemper include red eyes with a persistent, water discharge.
- The dog will also appear to be very tired and will lose appetite; also known as anorexia.
- As the condition worsens, the dog will vomit, cough persistently, and have diarrhea.
- The infection will continue to move through the dog’s body. As it infiltrates the spinal columns, seizures are common.
- The dog is quite dangerous and will easily attack hysterically without warning.
- As the nervous system is quickly damaged, the dog will succumb to tremors in the head or other parts of the body.
- Your dog may stumble when he walks as a result of the attack to the nervous system.
- You may notice the pads on the paws will harden or increase in size.
HOW LONG WILL IT BE BEFORE MY DOG IS BACK TO NORMAL?
The sad truth is that there is no cure and the prognosis is not good. The only medications available are those that will help the dog remain comfortable. Once diagnosed with canine distemper, follow-up care is mostly palliative.
I WAS TOLD THERE WAS A DOG WHO WAS VACCINATED BUT STILL CAUGHT THE VIRUS.
That might be true. Some things to consider are:
- The initial age the dog was when he/she was vaccinated.
- The size of the dog.
- The overall general health of the dog.
- Whether a booster schedule was followed.
In rare cases, dogs who’ve been inoculated could still catch the virus. However, it’s important to note that the vaccine itself does not cause dogs to catch distemper.
While the vaccine does use a microscopic amount of live virus, it’s not enough to stimulate a full-blown illness. What it does, however, is trigger the dog’s immune system to develop antibodies against distemper.
CANINE DISTEMPER VACCINATIONS SINCE 1950
Vaccinations have always carried some controversy with consideration to any live ingredients and the risk of serious complications due to the vaccine itself.
In my opinion, the risks of the vaccination are much lower than the risk of transmission to dogs who have not been inoculated. Remember, those raccoons that scarf down whatever is in your garbage can at night could be rampant with the disease. Your dog comes along, comes into contact with the virus, and then it’s too late.
SIDE-EFFECTS OF A CANINE DISTEMPER VACCINATION (DA2PPC):
- Some dogs will get a bump at the injection site. (I get a bump whenever I have a flu shot). Sure, it’s uncomfortable, but only for a short time.
- Your dog might feel a little tired for the rest of the day after the vaccination.
- While the vaccination is in there doing its thing, your dog might feel a little sick to his stomach. That’s totally normal! It will pass.
- Your dog might temporarily lose his appetite and he might even feel a little weak for a day or two.
- In extremely rare cases, dogs could go into anaphylactic shock. Please read that again. In extremely rare cases.
Ultimately, inoculation are safe and, compared to the alternative, as a wise investment of time and money.
NEW ON THE HORIZON. A NEW VACCINE FOR CANINE DISTEMPER?
My research led me to an abstract by the Veterinarian Microbiology Journal that suggests the time might come to develop a new strain of vaccine to better protect the pet population.
According to the article, incidents of canine distemper have risen and include previously vaccinated dogs. But, like the common cold, there’s more than one strain out there.
The article suggests that it might be time to look at a new vaccination to protect dogs against canine distemper. For now, however, please make sure your dog is updated on all of his/her vaccinations and boosters, as per the veterinarian’s instructions.
CANINE DISTEMPER IS THE LAST THING YOU WANT YOUR DOG TO SUFFER THROUGH!
The risks of the vaccination are ridiculously small compared to the death-sentence of distemper.
TESTING FOR CANINE DISTEMPER
The two main ways used to diagnose canine distemper is through biochemical tests and urine analysis. During the analysis, the number of lymphocytes—white blood cells that are contained in the lymph nodes are greatly reduced.
The urine sample will often show viral antigens. Mucus may also show antibodies. MRI or Magnetic resonance imaging will show whether there are any lesions on the brain.
PALLIATIVE CARE FOR DOGS INFECTED WITH DISTEMPER
Once a dog is infected with canine distemper, the most the veterinarian can do is provide supportive, palliative care. That would include painkillers and the treatment of secondary infections as a result of the compromised immune system.
Antibiotics would be administered for secondary infections. If seizures are present, the doctor will likely administer a course of potassium bromide.
While the dog may survive, some of the negative effects of the disease may remain hidden and only show up when the dog gets older. Seizures may develop along with abnormalities of the teeth.
IT’S NOT TOO LATE.
Don’t think your dog was ever vaccinated against canine distemper? If you brought the puppy in for regular inoculations and worming, there’s a good chance your dog is protected.
There’s no need to worry. If you’re not sure and you want to find out, contact the veterinarian who would have the dog’s health records.
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