What Is Distemper And Why Do Vets Vaccinate Against It?

When it comes to taking care of your dog, vaccines are a big part of the equation. However, local trends have led many parents and pet owners alike to question the necessity of certain vaccines. For dogs, the only legally mandated vaccine across the United States is the rabies vaccines. All other vaccines, even those considered core vaccines, are technically optional. One such vaccine is the distemper vaccine.

Get to know more about distemper and what the illness entails. Then, you can better understand why veterinarians recommend vaccinating against it. This will help you to take the best possible care of your dog going forward.

What Is Distemper?

Distemper, also commonly referred to as canine distemper, is a viral infection in dogs. This virus is related to the measles virus in human beings. It is highly contagious and can be transmitted between species. In fact, a recent outbreak of distemper among raccoons in Ohio has led to widespread warnings to pet owners about the possibility of their cats and dogs coming into contact with the infection.

How Is Distemper Transmitted?

Distemper virus is spread by contact with infected body fluids. This can include saliva, blood, and urine. Dogs often pick this up when sniffing the ground in areas where infected animals have been. Sometimes, a bite from an infected animal could also be the culprit. Even if an infected animal sneezes near your dog, they could potentially become infected.

What Does Distemper Do to Dogs?

Canine distemper works in stages. This means that it progresses through the body causing different symptoms as it goes. At first, the symptoms you may notice are high fever, lethargy and tiredness, and a watery discharge from the nose and eyes.

As the disease progresses, it begins to attack other systems throughout the body including the gastrointestinal system, nervous system, and respiratory systems. A dog with distemper may lose their appetite and become anorexic (refusing to eat).

Diarrhea and vomiting are also common symptoms of distemper. Other serious symptoms can include trouble breathing and coughing, seizures, and paralysis.

The symptoms of distemper are serious enough and the virus dangerous enough that some dogs do die from the virus within only a few weeks of contracting it. Older dogs or young puppies with weaker immune systems are particularly susceptible to these severe consequences of the disease, as are those with a weak immune system from cancer treatments or the like.

What Can Be Done About Distemper?

Once a dog has distemper virus, there is no cure. Any treatments focus on helping to alleviate symptoms and to keep your dog comfortable while they fight the virus. This can include medications to control seizures, fluids administered intravenously, and other forms of palliative care.

Distemper can also cause secondary infections and illnesses including bacterial infections and pneumonia. If these issues develop as well, treatment will need to include antibiotics and other treatments to address these secondary infections before they too become serious.

Distemper Can Be Prevented

When a dog has distemper virus, there is a strong chance that they will not survive the illness, no matter how healthy they were, to begin with. It is a serious viral infection and is one of the deadliest disease that dogs can contract.

However, distemper can be prevented. By choosing to vaccinate your dog against distemper, you could be saving them from weeks and months of misery and pain. While distemper is not a legally required vaccine, it is an important one to keep in mind for your canine companion.

Knowing all these facts about canine distemper, you can be sure that you are making the right vaccination choice for your dog. Schedule your next vet appointment as soon as possible to protect your dog from this deadly disease. For more information on pet vaccinations, contact your local animal hospital.