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Location : Surrey, England
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PostSubject: Distemper   Sun 19 Oct 2014, 6:31 pm

Canine Distemper Virus affects three main organ systems causing signs of disease :

The Respiratory System

Purulent discharges from nose.


Difficulty breathing (dyspnoea)


The Gastrointestinal tract

Diarrhoea - may contain blood

Vomiting In young animals that survive normal enamel of the teeth may be affected producing a pitted surface.

The Central Nervous System

Depression (often severe)

Fits or seizures

Muscular twitches and tonic-clonic contractions - uncontrollable muscle contractions

Other signs include :

High body temperature

Purulent discharges from the eyes and conjunctivitis

Dry eye (keratits sicca)

Inappetance Dehydration

Thickening of the foot pads in recovered dogs (called hyperkeratosis or "hard pad") Pustules on the skin

Weight loss


Canine distemper virus antigen has been found in the joints of dogs afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis but the origin (vaccine or natural infection) and significance of this finding is not known.


There is no specific treatment for canine distemper. Intravenous fluids are given to correct the fluid and electrolyte losses due to vomiting and diarrhoea, and antibiotics are given to control secondary infections.

If bitches are fully vaccinated they will pass on passive immunity to their puppies through the first milk (colostrum) and this protection falls off after 8 weeks, so the puppies should be vaccinated from that time. Measles vaccine can be used to give cross-protection to distemper, and this is given to provide some immunity to young puppies (from about 6 weeks to 12 weeks of age) that have been exposed to the disease even though maternal antibodies may be present.

All dogs should be protected by vaccination, and modified live vaccines are widely available. Two vaccines are given at the puppy stage and immunity can last for as long as 7 years in some individuals. However, it is usual to recommend booster vaccines - at 1-3 year intervals.

Vaccinated dogs can still become infected by canine distemper virus but they only show mild or no signs.

Once severe central nervous signs occur euthanasia is usually recommended.

Please consult a vet for futher advice


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