What is Canine Distemper?
Canine distemper is a viral disease. In previous times, canine distemper was a commonly seen disease and was frequently fatal for infected dogs. However, presently, canine distemper is not nearly as common because of the existence and commonplace usage of effective vaccines against the disease. That is not to say that the disease not longer occurs though. It is still seen, though not as often as previously, in individual dogs, particularly puppies, that have not yet developed any immunity to the disease. Unfortunately, the disease is still frequently fatal when contracted. Dogs that do recover may make a partial or full recovery from the disease.
What Canine Distemper is Not
One of the most frequent misconceptions I run into about canine distemper is that is has something to do with the temperament or personality of the dog in question. Though dogs suffering from canine distemper can develop neurological symptoms that affect their behavior, these are symptoms of the disease invading the dog’s brain and causing pathology. Canine distemper does not inherently affect the personality of an individual dog. Vaccination against canine distemper does not cause a dog to become aggressive nor prevent a dog from becoming aggressive. The reality of the situation is that canine distemper is a disease and vaccines against canine distemper protect dogs against that particular disease but do not play a part in the development of individual personality traits or make a dog-friendly, mean, outgoing or fearful.
Symptoms of Canine Distemper Virus
Canine distemper virus can infect dogs of any age, but young puppies are most susceptible to the infection. Symptoms are most commonly seen with the disease include:
Secondary bacterial invaders often affect the lungs of infected dogs, causing pneumonia. Neurological symptoms, such as jaw snapping, muscle tremors, incoordination, weakness, and even seizures, can occur as well but may not be seen immediately. Some dogs may appear to recover initially, only to present with the neurological symptoms one to three weeks later.
Another manifestation of canine distemper is the keratinization of the skin of the nose and foot pads. This leads to hardening of these tissues and has resulted in the disease sometimes being referred to as “hard pad disease”.
Canine Distemper Vaccines
Effective vaccines against canine distemper exist and canine distemper is considered to be a “core” vaccine by the American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Vaccination Guidelines. This means that vaccination against canine distemper is considered important for all dogs.
Vaccination against canine distemper can be administered as early as 6-8 weeks in puppies and should be boostered every 3-4 weeks until the puppy has reached the age of 14-16 weeks of age. This vaccine is most often a combination vaccine that protects not only against canine distemper but also against canine parvovirus and canine adenovirus infections.