Distemper in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Distemper is a contagious viral disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of dogs. Symptoms can include coughing, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and seizures. To help protect your dog from this potentially fatal virus, it is important to make sure they are up-to-date on their vaccinations and that you practice good hygiene when handling them or any other dogs.

Do you know the signs and symptoms of distemper in dogs? This viral illness can be deadly if not treated promptly. Read on to learn about distemper, including its causes, symptoms, treatment options, and prevention measures to keep your pup safe.


Distemper in Dogs

Distemper in dogs is a serious, contagious, and often fatal illness caused by the Canine Distemper Virus (CDV). This virus primarily attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of susceptible dogs. Vaccination is the best defense against CDV as most strains of CDV can be prevented with regular vaccines.

Symptoms of distemper in dogs may include fever, coughing, vomiting, eye and nose discharge, reduced appetite and energy levels, seizures, or even paralysis. If your dog displays any of these symptoms or you suspect they have contracted this illness it is important to take them to a veterinarian immediately for diagnosis and treatment.

Distemper in Dogs


Causes of Distemper in Dogs

Distemper is a virus that affects dogs of all ages and breeds, making it essential for pet owners to understand its potential causes. There are many underlying factors that contribute to the risk of distemper, from exposure to contaminated objects or animals to vaccination lapses and compromised immune systems.

Knowing how this virus spreads and what precautions you can take toward proper protection is key to keeping your canine companions safe and healthy.

Causes of Distemper in Dogs

Causes of Distemper in Dogs


Contact with an Infected Animal

Contact with an infected animal is one of the most common causes of distemper in dogs. Exposure to saliva, urine, feces, or other bodily secretions from a rabid or clinically ill animal can all lead to infection. Dogs should always be vaccinated against distemper to reduce the chance of exposure.

Pet owners should also avoid contact with wild animals and promptly seek veterinary care if their pet is bitten by a questionable animal. By taking basic precautions and staying informed about disease risks, pet owners can help protect the health of their canine companions.


Vaccination Status

It is highly recommended that all dogs receive the necessary vaccinations to prevent distemper, a contagious viral disease. Vaccinating your pup against this disease can significantly reduce its risk of infection, as well as protect those around them.

While most adult dogs are already vaccinated against distemper, puppies often need to go through a series of vaccinations spread out over several weeks. To be sure that your dog is adequately protected, discuss your pet’s vaccination status with your veterinarian for an individualized care plan.

Taking the appropriate measures can help ensure your pup stays healthy and happy for years to come!


Age & Breed Susceptibility

Age and breed are two important factors that can determine a dog’s susceptibility to canine distemper. Puppies and young adult dogs tend to be more susceptible, with certain breeds such as Labrador retrievers showing a greater risk.

Older dogs may also contract distemper if they have not been previously vaccinated. Knowing a dog’s age and breed can help pet owners to better protect their pets by taking the necessary precautionary measures.



It is a known fact that dogs are prone to stress, just like people. Stress can cause a variety of physical and behavioral issues, one of which is canine distemper. Canine distemper is a contagious and potentially deadly virus that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems in dogs.

Though there are vaccinations available for the virus, it is still important for pet parents to be aware of the signs associated with stress in our animal companions. If your pup exhibits unusual behavior such as barking excessively or hiding more often than normal, consult your veterinarian to figure out the underlying cause.


Immune System Disorders

Understanding immune system disorders can help provide insight into the causes of distemper in dogs. Autoimmune diseases, in which a dog’s body perceives its own immune cells as foreign, can leave them vulnerable to infection and illness.

Nutritional deficiencies can also impair the proper functioning of the canine immune system, making it more difficult for them to fight off disease and viruses. Finally, overcrowded living conditions put pets at higher risk of developing distemper and other illnesses due to greater exposure to germs and viruses.

Taking steps to promote a healthy lifestyle for your pup is key to minimizing the chance of developing immune system disorders that could lead to distemper.


Symptoms of Distemper in Dogs

Distemper in dogs is a contagious viral disease that affects dogs and many other animals, such as foxes, wolves, and raccoons. It’s caused by the canine distemper virus, which attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. The virus spreads through airborne exposure to infected body fluids or secretions.

Although the distemper vaccine can protect your dog from the disease, unvaccinated dogs are at risk of getting infected. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of distemper are essential to improve the chances of recovery. Here are some of the symptoms of distemper in dogs:

  1. High Fever: Distemper causes a high fever in dogs, which is usually over 103 degrees Fahrenheit. The fever is a sign that the dog’s immune system is fighting the virus. If the fever persists or goes beyond 106 degrees Fahrenheit, it can cause damage to the dog’s organs and brain.
  2. Coughing, Sneezing, and Nasal Discharge: Distemper virus attacks the respiratory system, which leads to coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge in dogs. The discharge is usually thick and colored, indicating a bacterial infection. Cough or sneeze also causes the dog’s eye to tear.
  3. Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Distemper virus also attacks the stomach and intestines, causing vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. The diarrhea is usually severe, watery, and has a foul smell. The vomit may contain blood or yellowish bile, and the dog may refuse to eat or drink.
  4. Neurological Symptoms: Distemper viruses can cause severe damage to the dog’s nervous system, leading to various neurological symptoms, such as muscle twitching, seizures, and paralysis. The dog may also show signs of ataxia, which is a lack of coordination and balance.
  5. Eye and Nose Discharge: The virus can cause discharge from the eyes and nose, which can sometimes be pus-like. Conjunctivitis is also a common symptom of distemper.

Symptoms of Distemper in Dogs


Treatment for Distemper in Dogs

Distemper in dogs is a highly infectious viral disease that affects their respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurological systems. Treatment for distemper involves supportive care to help the dog’s body fight the virus off. In some cases, specific treatments such as antibiotics, antivirals, and corticosteroids may be beneficial depending on the individual situation.

In order to increase the chances of success in treating this virus, early diagnosis and specialized care are essential. With proper care and treatment, many dogs can recover from canine distemper–and go on living happy and healthy lives!

Treatment for Distemper in Dogs

Treatment for Distemper in Dogs


Symptomatic Care

Symptomatic care is an important part of successful treatment for distemper in dogs. Fluid therapy can help keep the dog hydrated, as well as address any electrolyte abnormalities. Additionally, antibiotics can be used to reduce secondary bacterial infections.

Pain management should also be included, along with providing good nutrition to keep their strength up. It is essential that each step of symptomatic care is tailored to the individual animal’s needs to ensure an optimal recovery.



Distemper in dogs is a serious virus. Antibiotics have been proven to be effective in treating the symptoms associated with this virus. However, antibiotics cannot cure distemper. They only assist in relieving some of its more uncomfortable effects.

They should be administered carefully and only under the direction of a qualified veterinarian who can accurately assess the severity of the infection. While antibiotics may ease your pet’s suffering, prevention through proper vaccinations is always key for maintaining their health.


Intravenous Fluids

Intravenous fluids provide an effective treatment path for reversing distemper in dogs. They can help to restore energy while aiding in the elimination of toxins, stabilizing electrolyte levels, and rehydrating a pet who is sick or recovering from illness.

They are often administered via subcutaneous injection or through an indwelling catheter. When dosing fluids correctly, pets should feel relief relatively quickly. Dogs can usually return to normal activity levels with proper care and ease the associated symptoms of distemper quite effectively.


Prevention of Distemper in Dogs

Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that affects dogs and can lead to serious and even fatal complications. It is caused by the canine distemper virus and is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids, such as saliva and mucus. The best way to protect your furry friend from distemper is through prevention.

Here are some effective prevention measures you can take:

  1. Vaccination: The distemper vaccine is an essential part of your dog’s vaccination schedule. It is recommended that dogs receive their first vaccine at 6-8 weeks. This is followed by boosters every 2-4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. After that, dogs should receive an annual booster shot to maintain immunity.
  2. Avoid contact with infected dogs: Distemper is highly contagious. It can be easily spread through contact with infected dogs or their bodily fluids. Make sure to keep your dog away from other dogs that may be exhibiting symptoms of the disease.
  3. Keep your dog healthy: A strong immune system can help prevent your dog from getting sick. Make sure your dog is eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise. Receiving regular veterinary check-ups.
  4. Practice good hygiene: Proper hygiene is important for preventing the spread of disease. Wash your hands before and after handling your dog or any other dog. Make sure to disinfect any surfaces or objects that may have come into contact with an infected dog.

Taking these preventative measures can help to protect your furry friend from the dangers of distemper, and ensure that they can continue to live happy and healthy lives.

Prevention of Distemper in Dogs


In Conclusion

It is essential for pet owners to stay informed about the risks of distemper, and take proactive steps to keep their pets safe. Early detection and prompt treatment are key for helping dogs get through this virus safely. Vaccinating your pup against distemper, avoiding contact with infected animals, and more are all important preventive measures.

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