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Distemper in dogs: causes and symptoms


Distemper in dogs is a dangerous disease that can be fatal. Fortunately, since the distemper vaccine has become the standard for puppies, the infectious disease has become rare in Germany. Distemper in dogs: The symptoms are particularly dangerous for young animals - Image: Shutterstock / Zeljko Radojko

Viruses can affect not only dogs, but also foxes, ferrets, martens, raccoons, wolves and some other animals. The risk of infection for our domestic dogs is especially from unvaccinated dogs and puppies that are imported from abroad. Here you can find out which causes lead to distemper and what symptoms it manifests.

Distemper in dogs: causes and transmission routes

Distemper in dogs is transmitted from animal to animal. The virus infection occurs through the excretions of sick animals, so:

● saliva
● nasal secretions
● feces
● urine

Since the pathogen can survive in the air for a few days, dog baskets and toys from infected animals are other possible sources of infection. However, this indirect transmission path is less common than direct infection. If your dog is adequately vaccinated against distemper, he is usually well protected. If not, it can be dangerous for your four-legged friend. For example, it can become infected with infected members of the species on vacation.

If you want to adopt a puppy or adult dog from abroad - especially the Mediterranean and Eastern European countries - make sure that he is vaccinated against distemper and other dog diseases before entering the country. Otherwise, it can become infected, for example, on a walk through the forest through the excretions of infected wild animals. If he suffers from distemper, he can also infect his peers who cannot be vaccinated. This is the case with very young puppies, chronically ill animals and dogs with a weakened immune system.

Incubation time and course of distemper in the dog

After contact with the virus, the incubation period is three to six days. After eight days, the animal's body excretions are contagious. The virus spreads quickly in the dog's organism. Depending on which organs are affected first, four disease courses can be distinguished:

1. Gastrointestinal tract: Gastrointestinal distemper
2. respiratory tract: Respiratory distemper
3. Brain and nerves: Nervous distemper
4. skin: Excessive cornea formation (hyperkeratosis), also called hard ball shape or "hard pad disease"

However, the course of the disease can merge and occur together.

Distemper in dogs: diagnosis and treatment

Distemper in dogs is rare these days and the clear diagnosis at the veterinarian takes a little ...

Symptoms of distemper in dogs

Distemper is quite difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are very different depending on the course. In addition, the severity of the symptoms depend on the general state of health and the age of the dog. Adult dogs with a strong immune system sometimes manage to fight the pathogen so that there is no onset of the disease or the symptoms are mild. In general, symptoms such as physical weakness and fever can be observed with distemper.

These symptoms are typical of the gastrointestinal distemper form:
● diarrhea
● Loss of appetite
● vomiting

If the respiratory tract is severely affected, the following signs of distemper infection also appear:
● cough
● Shortness of breath
● Purulent nasal discharge
● conjunctivitis

It gets bad when the nervous system is affected, because it can damage the optic nerves and spinal cord. Dangerous symptoms such as epileptic seizures and paralysis indicate an attack on the nervous system.

It is particularly distressing for the sick dog if excessive cornea formation (hyperkeratosis) occurs due to distemper. The nasal mirror and the toe balls horny and harden. This variant, known as hard bale form or "hard pad disease", mostly occurs in connection with a congestion of the nervous system and usually ends fatally. Fortunately, this history is rare.

If you suspect distemper, you should definitely visit a veterinarian. Have your dog vaccinated against distemper in order to prevent disease as best as possible.