Distemper is the most commonly seen infectious desease affecting the central nervous system in dogs.


Urgency level 5


Danger level 5


The symptoms evolve approximately three to seven days after the infection. Above all young dogs are affected. Depending on the organ attacked, age and breed of the dog, as well as possible secondary infections, different symptoms may emerge which, however, in most cases come along with high fever, abnormal fatigue and often also absence of appetite. A reaction of the gastrointestinal tract is typical, which is characterized by vomiting and diarrhea. Breathlessness, cough, sneezing, ulcerous nose or eye discharge, an inflammation of the skin or of the eyes' background (redness initiates) can often be observed. In case the disease does not continue to develop, the prognosis is quite favorable and the symptoms decay mostly after a few weeks. If in contrast the dog's central nervous system is attacked, the prognosis is very bad. Symptoms would be epileptic seizures, amyostasia, disturbances of equilibrium, behavior modifications or head tilt what in many cases is an evidence of a damaged brain. Hornification of the skin appears rarely and in very serious cases, especially on muzzle and pad what is rather to be considered the most unfavorable omen.


The disease is provoked by a virus (Canine distemper virus) being similar to the human measles virus and the rinderpest virus. The infection is caused by direct contact and droplet infection. Also the direct infection is possible (contaminated food, animals' accessories, etc.). Infected animals secrete the virus over spittle, excrement, urine and other secretions (eye, nose secretion). The virus survives in sunlight for about fourteen hours, but in rooms and on clothes a few days. Disinfectants make the virus quickly harmless.


There are several methods to verify the virus disease where the techniques are rather to be assessed as difficult. Distemper impairs notably the immune system of a dog, that is why bacterial secondary infections are probable and to be inhibited by means of antibiotics. Otherwise, the treatment addresses the appearing symptoms. There is no therapy for the virus itself, but vaccination. If an animal contracts distemper and cures it, often subsequent damages will remain. The distemper denture (defect of the adamantine of the dog) is only one of the possible implications.

Emergency measures

The disease shall be considered an emergency since possibly danger to life emanates from it. The dog needs to get as fast as possible to a veterinary hospital or a veterinarian. The initial vaccination against distemper is made in the age of a few weeks of life with the basic immunization of the dog. If you want to obviate the disease, after such basic immunization annual booster injections are required and indispensable after a new distribution of the disease. Normally, a combination vaccine is given which protects at the same time against parvovirosis and hepatitis.

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