Not as common as Parvo, Distemper is an incurable and often fatal illness. In fact, just last week we had a patient die from distemper.  CDV (Canine Distemper Virus) is a highly contagious, multi-systemic, viral disease that is found world-wide.  It is one of the leading causes of death in unvaccinated puppies, but also affects pregnant moms and unvaccinated adults.  Distemper not only affects our beloved canine companions, but is also found in raccoons, wolves, foxes, skunks and ferrets.  CDV is within the Morbillivirus class and is a relative of the measles in regard to humans. Canine Distemper is also called the “hard pad disease” due to the hardening of the nose, and pads of the paws, associated with CDV.  Distemper is a “generalized disease” meaning it affects multiple body systems and organs making it very difficult to diagnose.  Most common affected areas are within the Respiratory, Gastrointestinal and Central Nervous Systems.  CDV is spread through all secretions and excretions including, but not limited to, direct contact, coughing, sneezing, feces, urine and infected objects.

The symptoms associated with Canine Distemper vary depending upon the body system most affected.  Most common clinical signs include, but are not limited to:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Thick yellow discharge from eyes and nose
  • Cough
  • Mild eye inflammation
  • Hyperkeratosis (hardening of the paw pads and nose)
  • Fever
  • Anorexia
  • Involuntary convulsions
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Encephalitis (swelling of the brain)

If your pet exhibits any of the previous symptoms, alone or in any combination, please bring them into Aspen Grove Vet Care.  Once here, our doctors and technicians will assess your pets’ medical needs.  Unfortunately, there is no cure for Distemper, so treatment is limited to stabilization and reducing the intensity of your pets’ symptoms.  They will undergo intensive care hospitalization, IV fluids to maintain equilibrium and symptomatic medications (anti-seizure, anti-emetics, etc.)  Most likely, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics as well; they are not effective against viruses but will help to control secondary bacterial infections that often occur with CDV. 

The terminal stage for Canine Distemper is usually 2-4 weeks after infection; however, it can last several months in older patients.  If the nervous system is affected, most pets decease within days.  The mortality rate for this disease is 30% – 80%, yet the few pets who survive CDV can have permanent nervous system damage such as chorea (persistent nervous muscular twitches) and seizures.  These pets also shed the virus for 60 – 90 days after the symptoms discontinue, so containment is vital.

Vaccinating your pet is essential to stopping this disease and maintaining their health.  Prevention is much easier on your wallet, your pets’ safety and your piece of mind.  To set an appointment with Aspen Grove Vet Care, please call 970-416-0232.  We hope to see you and your wonderful pets soon!    

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