Symptoms of Canine Distemper

Symptoms of Canine Distemper

How To Identify Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a virus that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, respiratory and central nervous systems of the dog, as well as the conjunctival membranes of the eye.

How Is Canine Distemper Spread?

There are three ways that dogs can get canine distemper:

  • By direct contact with the infected animal or object.
  • Through exposure to the air
  • Via the placenta

Canine distemper is spread through direct contact or exposure to the air, much like the common cold in humans. When an infected dog or wild animal coughs, sneezes, or barks, it releases aerosol droplets into the environment, infecting nearby animals and surfaces, such as food and water bowls.

The good news is that the virus does not last long in the environment and most disinfectants can be destroyed. The bad news is that distemper-infected dogs can spread the virus for up to a few months, putting dogs around them at risk.

Dogs are not the only animals that can be infected with distemper. Wild animals such as raccoons, foxes, wolves, coyotes, skunks, ferrets, and mink can also get distemper. This means that an outbreak of distemper in the local wildlife population may put dogs at risk of catching the disease even if they do not come into contact with other dogs.

Female dogs may also spread the virus through the placenta to their puppies, which is one of the reasons why it is important to fully vaccinate any dog you plan to breed.

symptoms of canine distemper

What Are the Symptoms of Canine Distemper?

Distemper dogs experience a wide range of symptoms depending on how advanced the disease is in their body. Once the dog is infected, the virus initially replicates in the lymphatic tissue of the respiratory tract before it moves to infect the rest of the dog’s other organs. This results in two phases of symptoms.

Stage One:

The first symptom of distemper in dogs is usually watery to pus-like discharge from the eyes, followed by fever, loss of appetite, and clear nasal discharge.

Most dogs develop fever approximately 3-to-6 days after infection, but the initial symptoms depend on the severity of the case and how the patient responds to it. In general, symptoms associated with distemper in dogs during the first stage of infection are:

  • Fever
  • Clear nasal discharge
  • Purulent eye discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pustular dermatitis (rarely)
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord

If a dog infected with distemper survives the acute stage of the disease, it may also develop hyperkeratosis of the paw pads and the nose, which causes the nickname “hard pad disease” to distemper.

This distemper symptom causes the paws of the dog’s legs to harden and widen and is uncomfortable.

Stage Two:

Some dogs develop neurological signs as the disease progresses and attack the central nervous system. These signs are of particular concern to owners.

  • Head tilting
  • Circling around
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Repetitive eye movements
  • Twitching muscles
  • Convulsions with increased salivation and chewing movements
  • Death

Distemper in dogs presents some or all of these symptoms, depending on the severity of the case.

symptoms of canine distemper

How Do Dogs Get Canine Distemper?

The virus is transmitted from dog to dog through direct contact with fresh urine, blood or saliva. Sneezing, coughing and sharing food and water bowls are all possible ways to spread the virus.

When is the time to see the Vet?

Right away! Please see your vet right away if you suspect that your dog has been infected with a canine distemper virus. The virus spreads quickly and must be treated aggressively as soon as it is discovered.

How is the diagnosis of Canine Distemper made?

Canine distemper tests do exist, but the results are not always reliable on their own.

Instead of just testing for infection, your vet has to look at the whole picture, including a dog’s specific symptoms and health history.

Positive results may help to confirm an infection, but the dog may still be infected even if the test results are negative.

Which Dog Breeds Are Prone to Canine Distemper?

Puppies and adolescent dogs that have not been vaccinated are the most vulnerable to the Distemper virus.

They are typically rescues with an unknown history of vaccination or have been purchased from pet stores.

Serious infections are most commonly seen in puppies or adolescent dogs.

Puppies younger than seven weeks of age, born to mothers who have not been vaccinated against the virus, are extremely susceptible.

Once infected, the puppies will be severely weakened. The virus often travels to the brain, causing seizures, shaking and trembling. A weakened immune system leaves an infected dog open to secondary infections such as pneumonia.

How To Get Rid Of Fleas In Dogs


Just about 10% of the flea population are on your pet. Flea eggs, larvae, pupae, and the few adults living in carpeting, bedding, and living areas make up approximately 90% of the population of flea. 

Neglecting this flea population will mean that the flea problem continues to escalate over time. 

You’re going to need a concerted assault to control fleas in your home and yard. Here’s what it takes to include: 

Daily vacuuming is important for the eradication of flea as a whole. This will pick up (and get rid of) adults, embryos, larvae, and pupae before they develop.

 It is also also necessary to place the flea collar in the vacuum bag and empty the bag; otherwise, the fleas may hatch, grow and leave the vacuum to re-infest the living quarters. Dispose of vacuum bags correctly and regularly. 

Clean all bedding, clothes, and furniture at least regularly.

Symptoms of Canine Distemper

How is Canine Distemper Prevented?

Make sure your dog has completed a series of vaccinations. A dog vaccine is called a distemper shot.

If you have a puppy, make sure that he gets his first vaccination at six to eight weeks of age. Be sure to keep him away from any possibly infectious dogs or environments until he has been vaccinated for four or five months.

Also, routine cleaning and disinfecting your home (or chenil) will ensure that the virus is not in the living environment of your dog.

Symptoms of Canine Distemper

symptoms of canine distemper

Symptoms of Canine Distemper

If you’ve recently introduced a new puppy or dog to your home, remember that it is imperative to ensure that your pet is vaccinated and dewormed. Get in touch with us for all your veterinary needs.

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