Canine distemper

vet dog_111544847CANINE DISTEMPER (often just called ‘distemper’) is a contagious, very serious virus in dogs. It affects a dog’s respiratory, digestive and nervous systems (brain), and the membranes of the eyes and nose. It is a terrible disease as it causes great suffering and, often, death.

First signs:

  • Very high temperature
  • Thick mucus, often yellow, from eyes &/or nose.
  • Very red eyes
  • Lethargy (limp/tired) & depression (dog seems ‘down’)
  • Doesn’t really want to eat

Next signs:

  • Coughing, sneezing
  • Vomiting & diarrhoea
  • Dehydration (loss of skin elasticity, dry/sticky gums, depression, sunken eyes, thick saliva)

Later stages:

  • Muscle twitches, lameness in its legs (especially the back legs), paralysis, and seizures
  • Pneumonia


How can my dog be infected?

The virus is passed from dog to dog through contact with fresh urine, blood or saliva. Sneezing, coughing and sharing food/water bowls are all ways for the virus to be passed from a sick dog to another dog.

All unvaccinated dogs at are risk, but puppies, young dogs, and very old dogs are most at risk.

Can I prevent it?

Yes, with vaccinations. Have your puppy vaccinated at 6 – 8 weeks old. It will then need another 2 vaccinations before 4 – 5 months of age. Until then, he/she is NOT fully protected. Adult dogs need vaccinations once/year.

Puppies under 6 weeks must stay with their mother, not be taken out of your property, and only be handled if you have cleaned your hands properly.

How will I know if my dog has canine distemper?

The only way to know for sure is for the vet to test your dog – they can test urine, blood, and mucus.

Is canine distemper curable?

No, unfortunately there is no cure. Some dogs recover, but it is rare and they often have permanent brain damage or pneumonia. It is often kinder to put him or her to sleep if the infection is very advanced because, otherwise, your dog will suffer and infect other dogs too. Do not just leave your dog hoping that it will get better on its own.

What about my other dogs?

If your other dogs have had all their vaccinations, they should be safe. If you have other puppies which have not had all 3 vaccinations, they will very likely also get sick.

Can I get another puppy afterwards?

You should not bring any unvaccinated puppy/dog into the property for 6 to 12 months afterwards or it could also get sick. Thoroughly clean food and water bowls, kennel, and the area where the sick dog stayed.

If the new dog has had ALL its vaccinations and you have cleaned the area, it should be ok.

You may also like...