Distemper is a highly contagious disease of dogs, wolves, coyotes, raccoons, mink, and ferrets. It is caused by a virus that is easily spread through the air and by contaminated objects, much like the cold virus spreads in people.
Although the disease occurs more often in young dogs, those of any age may contract distemper. This is especially true of animals under stress or those that are relatively isolated from other dogs.
Signs range from those of a mild respiratory problem, such as runny eyes and nose, to severe diarrhea, vomiting, and seizures. Many recovered dogs are left with uncontrollable muscle or limb jerking and/or periodic convulsions.
Vaccination is the best means of preventing canine distemper. All dogs should be vaccinated yearly or have titers checked for this disease.
Important Points in Treatment
1. Distemper is a serious disease that is often fatal. Currently we have no drugs to destroy the virus. Treatment is aimed at supporting general health and preventing bacterial infections. In many cases, hospital treatment is necessary.