Everything You Need To Know About Canine Distemper

Everything You Need To Know About Canine Distemper

Got a puppy? Make sure that it has got all the puppy vaccinations. Canine distemper is one of the diseases in pets that can be prevented with vaccination. Paramyxovirus is a group of RNA viruses that causes this highly contagious disease. In addition to dogs, this is common in many other animals such as grey foxes, skunks, raccoons and more. 

Symptoms of this disease appear in up to 14 days. This virus targets the central nervous system, immune system, skin, respiratory system and gastrointestinal system. The following are the symptoms of canine distemper: 

  • Pain 
  • Skin sores 
  • Pneumonia 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sneezing
  • Thickening of foot pads and nose 
  • Nasal discharge 
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Eye discharge

The puppy may also show symptoms that are similar to the symptoms of rabies such as neurological symptoms and brain inflammation. Canine distemper neurological symptoms include:

  • Seizures
  • Muscle twitching
  • Paralysis or partial paralysis
  • Chewing-gum fits
  • Involuntary eye movements
  • Excessive saliva
  • Circling
  • Head tilt

In the initial days, you may mistake the symptoms of this disease for other infections and viruses. It might be a mild or severe case of this disease. The symptoms may not last more than 10 days. You may notice neurological symptoms in your pet months after infection. 


The paramyxovirus virus is responsible for this disease. Your pet may get in contact with infected saliva, blood, urine or respiratory droplets. Contaminated water and food bowls or sneezing and coughing can spread this disease. Though your dog may get this infection any time in the year, the risk is high during late fall and winter. 

The most effective way to prevent this disease is puppy vaccinations. If you suspect that your dog has this disease or any other health problem then you must see a vet. Don’t ignore the symptoms of this disease as it is a highly contagious one. Book an appointment with a vet if you don’t know if your pet is vaccinated or not. You can take your pet to a vet for puppy vaccinations at the age of six weeks. Don’t ignore puppy vaccinations if your dog is exposed to an animal carrying this disease. 


The symptoms of this disease may not appear immediately after your pet gets the infection. This disease and rabies also have similar symptoms. This is the reason why it is important to see a doctor for diagnosis. The following tests are done to reveal the disease: 

  • Toxin poisoning 
  • Leptospirosis
  • Rocky mountain spotted fever
  • Contagious viral hepatitis

The vet takes bone marrow, nose, throat or eye swabs, or urine samples. Analyzing these samples provide more details about the viral infection. The vet may also take spinal fluid or blood tests for antibodies.            

Canine Distemper Treatment

The goal of the treatment is to treat symptoms and provide supportive care. The treatment for canine distemper includes IV nutrition, seizure medications, pain relievers, broad-spectrum antibiotics, fever reducers, electrolytes and hospitalization. Keep in mind that this disease requires immediate and aggressive treatment. Therefore, if you suspect that something is wrong with your pet’s health, see a vet immediately. Your dog may experience neurological symptoms even after the treatment. Steroids, anti-inflammatories or immune system medications prescribed in such cases may not always work. 

Canine Distemper Prevention 

The best way to prevent this disease in your pet is puppy vaccination. Take your pet for the vaccination at the age of six weeks. This is followed by vaccination after every 3 to 4 weeks until your puppy is 16 weeks old.      

If left untreated, canine distemper can cause the following lasting health issues: 

  • Brain damage 
  • Seizures
  • Nerve damage
  • Jaw spasms
  • Muscle twitching