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Canine Distemper is one of the most common infectious diseases that affect dogs. Itís thought that all dogs come in contact with the virus at some time in their lives. It is a serious, and often fatal illness.

Canine distemper is an entirely different disease than feline distemper. Cats are not susceptible to this disease and they do not spread it to dogs. However, ferrets, as well a number of wildlife species, are susceptible to canine distemper and infected animals of these species can transmit it to dogs.

Contact with contaminated urine or feces can cause infection, but it is an airborne virus and contact with an infected animal is not needed for infection to occur. A dog can become infected if another animal within a 20 mile radius has the disease. Puppies and younger dogs are the most common victims of this disease but older dogs are also susceptible. Distemper is not transmissible to humans.

Symptoms of distemper can mimic a cold at first. Fever and eye discharge are common symptoms and are often mistaken as symptoms of milder illnesses. Dogs may show very subtle symptoms for as long as a few weeks. The disease gradually worsens and symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, coughing and weight loss. These are not the only symptoms. Symptoms of distemper can be so various that itís important to get any sick dog veterinary attention immediately. In later stages, the disease affects the central nervous system, causing convulsions and possibly paralysis.

There is no cure for distemper. 50% of dogs that contract distemper will die. Prompt veterinary treatment greatly increases a dogís chance of surviving distemper. Many dogs That survive will suffer permanent damage from the disease, such as seizures, paralysis, eye problems and permanent changes in paw pads. Dogs that survive the disease usually develop an immunity to it, but they can still infect other dogs for up to three months.

A vaccine is available for canine distemper. Dogs must be vaccinated at least once a year. It is usually given with other vaccines, such as Parvo. Check with your veterinarian for a vaccine schedule for puppies. Most puppies begin vaccination schedules at 6-8 weeks of age and must be revaccinated periodically. Puppies do acquire some immunity from their mothers if the mother is immune, but it is not total protection and the protection they do acquire does not last long. Risk of infection in puppies too young to be vaccinated can be reduced by minimizing their exposure to other dogs and areas other dogs frequent, such as dog parks and kennels. Keep in mind they will still be susceptible as this is an airborne virus.


Links
Canine Distemper Virus
Wildlife Diseases Manual-Canine and Feline Distemper

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