What is Canine Distemper?

October 5, 2017
What is Canine Distemper?

Distemper may sound like a behavioral condition, but it’s actually a severe illness with no known cure. Dogs, cats and ferrets can get distemper, so it’s important to have your pets vaccinated.

What is distemper?

Canine distemper is the common name for the paramyxovirus in dogs. Canine distemper is also known as “hard pad disease,” because some strains of the virus thicken the skin of a dog’s paws.

The virus attacks multiple systems of the body, causing an all-over infection. As the lymph nodes, respiratory system and gastrointestinal tract are infected, pets will show symptoms like a pus-like discharge from the eyes, fever, runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite. As days of sickness progress, pets are at risk of dehydration, seizures or paralysis. Canine distemper can be fatal, and even dogs who survive may have permanent damage to their nervous systems.

Are all dogs at risk for distemper?

Distemper is very contagious. It is spread through direct contact or airborne exposure (through coughing or sneezing by an infected pet or wild animal). It is so prolific that most pets will be exposed at some point during their first year of life, so starting vaccines early is very important.

Do I have to get my dog vaccinated for distemper?

Because distemper is so prevalent, so contagious and can make dogs very sick, it’s very important to vaccinate all pets. Puppies receive the distemper vaccine on a regular schedule in their first weeks of life – see the puppy vaccination schedule here.

Do I need to see a vet for distemper?

All pets should be taken to the veterinarian for vaccines, including the distemper vaccine. If your dog has symptoms of distemper, has been around other pets or wildlife with distemper, or seems ill, make an appointment to visit our Woodruff vet clinic right away.  

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