Recently you may have read in the news about a distemper outbreak at a St. Louis adoption agency that killed several dogs and puppies. That is terrible news, but most times, distemper can be preventible.
Distemper is a viral disease that is related to the virus that causes measles in humans. It is spread through all body secretions, especially airborne particles from breathing. This makes it easy for an untreated or unvaccinated dogs to be infected. It appears most often in puppies that are between 6 and 12 weeks who haven’t been vaccinated because the protective antibodies that they had received from their mothers had fallen to a level too low to prevent infection. Not only dogs transfer the infection, but other animals are threats to spread this disease. The most common species that can spread distemper are raccoons, skunks and foxes. Coming into contact with the droppings of these animals can easily spread the disease.
Initially, the disease may present itself with mild symptoms may be mild. These symptoms may include:
- Fever of 103 to 109
- Watery discharge from the eyes and nose
- Depression and listlessness
- Loss of appetite
- Thick, yellow discharge from the eyes and nose
- Dry cough
- Pus blisters on the abdomen
As the disease progresses, it attacks the brain and the symptoms become neurological. Disease progression clinical signs could include:
- Head shaking
- Chewing jaw motions
- Seizure-like symptoms, such as falling over and kicking feet uncontrollably
- Rhythmic muscle jerking of the head and neck
- Thick, horny skin on the nose and callus-like pads on the feet
If your pet gets distemper, it can’t be cured. Dogs that have progressed to the neurological stage are at a much higher risk of death than if it is caught earlier and treated. Treatment can help the dog mount an immune response better or it may lessen the symptoms of distemper. Since distemper is a virus, the dog’s life relies on the dog’s ability to fight off the disease. Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary infections. He may also give the dog IV fluids to address the dehydration and he may prescribe medications to control diarrhea, vomiting and seizures.
Success of the treatments are largely dependent on the age of the dog, how quickly you seek help, the distemper strain, and whether your dog has been vaccinated. Vaccination against distemper is highly protective.
Some dogs may recover on their own, but owners should never take the wait and see approach with distemper. If your dog recovers from distemper, and that is a big “if”, your dog would be naturally immune to a second attack, just like measles in humans.
I would recommend using caution when socializing puppies or unvaccinated dogs at parks, obedience classes, doggy day care and other places where dogs can congregate since this disease is quite contagious. Make sure that you do not share food or water bowls with other dogs as this can be a common source of infection.
I can’t stress enough how important that your dog should be vaccinated for distemper. This vaccination is usually started when the puppy is 5 to 6 weeks old and continued every 3 to 4 weeks until the puppy is 4 months old. This should provide long lasting immunity. But it is not permanent. If your dog is adopted, ask the facility if and when they had given the distemper vaccine. No dog should ever die of distemper as the vaccinations are quite effective.
With the quality vaccines distemper is very preventible. Keeping your pet current on its’ vaccines is extremely important. If you have any further questions or need your pet vaccinated, please feel free to contact us here or call us at 618-656-5868.
“I figured, what’s the worse that could happen? If he got sick, I’d take him to the vet. Well, he got sick. Real sick. It kills me to think about how scared, how weak he looked, and how despondent my kids were. He was the star of the house. And he was gone, just like that.”
Some days in our clinic, we see this. Clients bringing in their lifeless pets for us to treat and nurse their beloved pet back to health. Sometimes this could have been preventable if only they had vaccinated their pet.
If you have paid attention to the media, there is a lot of discussion on whether you should vaccinate your children or not. Unfortunately, this discussion also crops up in veterinary medicine—whether to vaccinate your pet or not.
There are only two reasons to vaccinate. They are to protect your pet and protect the pets and people around us. Cat and dog diseases still exist and can infect any pet that is not protected. You never know when or where your pet can be exposed. Vaccinations are the best way to stimulate the immune system to stop diseases when exposed and for the vast majority of pets, the benefits of vaccinating far outweigh the risks.
We can’t depend on other pet owners to provide the proper vaccinations to their pets so that our pet has less opportunity to get a disease. So by vaccinating we are cooperating will all individuals to reduce the possibility of spreading disease.
There are several reasons that you should vaccinate your pets. The first and foremost is that with some diseases, it is the law. It is mandatory that you have your pet vaccinated against rabies in every U.S. State. Even pets kept indoors can potentially be exposed if the get out unexpectedly or an uninvited animal gets in the house. The important thing about rabies is that humans can get it and it is fatal.
Several diseases can be transmitted from pets to humans such as rabies and Leptospirosis. Vaccinating your pet helps reduce the risk of human infection and is especially necessary if there are young, elderly, or immune-compromised members in your household.
Many people have their pet groomed, boarded, or attend doggy daycare. If you do, most places require that you pet have a vaccine against kennel cough. This disease is a hacking cough that is highly contagious. Although the disease is relatively mild, it can sometime lead to severe pneumonia.
Young unvaccinated puppies are at risk to contracting parvovirus. This is a severe life-threatening infection that causes bloody diarrhea and vomiting to the point of shock and even death. Parvovirus is extremely contagious and puppies are most at risk. This disease is almost 100% preventable with vaccination.
Puppies can get a severe neurological, dermatologic, and respiratory disease called distemper. Most dogs that contract distemper and euthanized due to the progressive nature of the disease. This disease can also be prevented by timely vaccinations.
There are other diseases such as hepatitis, Lyme disease, and Leptospirosis that can be prevented by vaccinating your puppies.
Believe it or not vaccinating can save money. Most veterinary vaccinations are relatively inexpensive. Vaccinations are definitely less expensive that the cost of treatment for the diseases that they protect against.
An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Many dangerous diseases seen in dogs and cats are completely preventable with the right vaccinations. Vaccinating gives pet owners peace of mind and helps pets lead safe and healthy lives.
If you have questions, or are still unsure about vaccinations for your pet, contact our office today.