Canine Distemper: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

 

As soon as you bring a new pup into your life they become a top priority, and it’s up to you to learn about the canine diseases that can compromise their health and wellness. It’s especially critical to learn about highly contractible and often fatal illnesses like distemper.

What is distemper in dogs?

Distemper is a severe and often deadly viral infection that affects dogs as well as  ferrets and wild animals like foxes, skunks and raccoons. Along with parvovirus, it’s one of the most serious diseases your dog can contract. Canines of any age can get it, but puppies are particularly susceptible. The signs of distemper in older dogs are the same as in young dogs.

What causes distemper in dogs?

The cause of distemper in dogs is the paramyxovirus. This type of virus is also responsible for several other deadly animal diseases, including virulent Newcastle disease in birds and rinderpest in cattle. It typically attacks the respiratory system, but some paramyxoviruses attack the nervous system and even the reproductive system. Distemper is one of the few paramyxoviruses for which there is a vaccine.

Is distemper in dogs contagious?

Yes, it is highly contagious. Transmission of distemper in dogs can happen through direct contact with an infected animal, including from mothers to unborn puppies through the placenta. Distemper is also airborne, so when an infected dog barks or sneezes, the disease can quickly spread onto surrounding surfaces where it can be picked up—or it can be directly transmitted through the air. Wildlife can also transmit distemper to dogs.

When a dog has distemper, they can shed the virus and be contagious for months, even if they aren’t showing symptoms. Fortunately, the virus that causes distemper in dogs doesn’t last long once it’s in the environment and is easy to kill using regular disinfectants.

What are the early distemper symptoms in dogs?

Many people think of neurological distemper in dogs when they think of this illness. The initial symptoms, however, are usually more like allergies—watery or pus-filled eyes and nasal discharge. Dogs often lose their appetite, become lethargic and start running a fever. Your dog may cough, experience diarrhea or vomit. Most of these symptoms appear three to six days after infection. Getting treatment for distemper in dogs as early as possible is vital. Seek veterinary services as soon as you notice symptoms.

What other diseases look like distemper in dogs?

The symptoms of neurological distemper in dogs can be frightening and may seem specific to this disease. However, there are a few other illnesses that have similar symptoms to distemper in dogs.

Canine hepatitis, similarly to distemper, causes discharge from the eyes and nose. Leptospirosis can cause shivering and muscle tenderness, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever causes muscle pain and swelling, which can be mistaken for distemper symptoms in dogs. Lead poisoning has perhaps the most similar symptoms to distemper, and includes uncoordinated walking, tremors and seizures. Your vet will be able to tell you more about what symptoms like these can mean for your pup.

How is distemper diagnosed?

When you take your dog to the vet for any of the above symptoms, you’ll be asked questions about their medical history, vaccination history and any other clinical signs. If the disease has progressed and your dog is displaying severe distemper symptoms, your veterinarian will likely suspect it immediately.

The next step is usually a diagnostic test using a swab from the eye or nose. Blood tests are also utilized in certain cases.

How does distemper progress?

Distemper eventually causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. This causes the particularly worrying symptoms of neurological distemper in dogs, which includes circling, head tilts, paralysis, twitching and seizures.

As distemper in dogs progresses, it can cause hyperkeratosis, or “hard pad” symptoms in the nose and paw pads. Essentially, the skin thickens and hardens and can cause discomfort. Secondary infections of the lungs and gastrointestinal tract are also common because distemper compromises the immune system.

What is the prognosis for distemper in dogs?

Distemper in dogs is often fatal. Some estimates project that it is fatal for 50% of adult dogs and 80% of puppies. The survival rate, however, often depends on the particular virus strain, the care your dog receives and the strength of their immune system. This is another reason distemper is so deadly to puppies—their immune systems aren’t as developed as those of adult dogs.

Some dogs won’t ever progress to the neurological stage, and their symptoms may resolve in as little as a week. Other dogs may show signs for weeks or months.

Are there long-term effects of distemper in dogs?

If the distemper progresses to the neurological stage, there can be long-term effects. Your dog may develop permanent twitches or tremors, have recurring seizures or even lose their eyesight. Sometimes these effects don’t appear until the dog is middle-aged or older.

How do you treat distemper in dogs?

There is currently no cure for distemper. Treatment for distemper in dogs involves managing symptoms to help prevent a fatality. Your dog will need to be separated from other dogs to prevent transmission and will likely need to be hospitalized  to receive proper care.

Your vet may recommend medications to help control vomiting and diarrhea, minimize neurologic symptoms and keep your pet hydrated. There are no antibiotics for distemper in dogs, although they may be used to treat secondary infections, an often essential part of treatment.

Can you prevent distemper?

Preventing canine distemper is relatively straightforward. Get your pup vaccinated. Because the prognosis for distemper in dogs is so poor, vaccination is one of the best preventive measures you can take for them. The distemper vaccine is part of the DHPP shot, which stands for distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza and parvovirus. It’s given in three rounds, and puppies can receive their first round as young as 6 to 8 weeks and be fully vaccinated by 16 to 18 weeks.

Until they are fully vaccinated, keep your puppy away from unknown dogs and wildlife as well as day cares, dog parks, kennels and other places where dogs gather. Read our guide, “Pet Vaccinations: Common Questions Answered by Our Trusted Veterinarian” for more information on vaccinations.

How long is the distemper vaccine good for in dogs?

After the first round of three shots, puppies will typically need a booster shot after a year. Adult dogs should receive a DHPP booster every three years. The vaccine is very effective in preventing distemper, but you should not take your puppy out and about until they are fully vaccinated. Also keep in mind that the DHPP vaccine covers multiple diseases, so even if your pup has had distemper, they should still get the booster every three years.

Are there side effects of the distemper vaccine?

Like any vaccine, the vaccine for distemper in dogs may have side effects, including lethargy, loss of appetite, fever and swelling around the injection site. Some puppies may have an allergic reaction that can take up to 24 hours to show signs, so continuously monitor your dog after they receive a vaccination. Side effects are rare, and because distemper in dogs causes such severe health problems, the vaccine is recommended in most cases.

The bottom line is that transmission of distemper in dogs can occur easily, and this disease is often deadly with acute symptoms. On the other hand, preventing canine distemper is relatively easy and will typically cost far less than treating the disease.

Book an appointment at one of our upcoming Vetco Clinics to prevent distemper in your pet. Click the button below to find a date and time that works for you.

Blog used with permission from Vetco

What to Know About Dog Anxiety

Blog used with permission from Honest Paws

 

 

People can experience a range of anxiety symptoms – from a nervous heart flutter to a full-on panic attack. Having anxiety is one of the many ways dogs are like their pet parents. Just like us, their nervousness is normally nothing to worry about. It’s quite understandable that your pup may be a bit anxious when meeting people for the first time, or encountering a new situation.

With a little reassurance, your pooch will often quickly calm down. However, if dog anxiety is not addressed properly, or if there’s some underlying trauma at play, your pet’s anxiety could become a serious matter that takes time and energy to remedy. Read on to find out what you need to know about anxiety in dogs and how to help your pooch overcome this problem.

What is Anxiety in Dogs?

 

 

Basically, having anxiety is about being fearful or worried about something. It’s a natural emotion that helps alert us to danger, but it can be problematic in other circumstances. Dogs are pack animals and view their human family members part of their pack.

They feel safe with others around so it’s not unexpected that feelings of anxiety will surface when they’re left alone. This is called separation anxiety and is one of the typical forms of anxiety in dogs.

Our canines do best when they know what to expect. Therefore, anxiety may also become an issue if they’re dealing with a significant change in their environment, or too many changes at once. This means there can be a variety of reasons why your fur baby has developed anxiety.

Causes of Anxiety in Dogs

Some dogs have a generally calm disposition and will be less bothered by particular events than other canines might. Having said that, there are a number of common causes of anxiety in dogs. Keep in mind that there may be more than one reason for your pet’s anxiety.

Thunder

Many dogs will become anxious when they hear loud noises like thunder. Interestingly, dogs can sense a drop in barometric pressure so they may disappear when they know there’s a storm coming. You might find your pooch cowering in the bathtub or under a bed in this circumstance. Other loud noises, like fireworks, will produce the same reaction.

Crowds

Being in a crowd can be anxiety-provoking for your pooch. That’s because they don’t know what to expect in this environment. Crowds can be noisy and confining. This qualifies as an unfamiliar situation where, in your dog’s mind, anything can happen. Your pup may also worry about being separated from you.

Social

Is your dog anxious when they’re around new people or other dogs? There may be a traumatic event in their past that’s affecting their behavior.

Maybe your dog has been rescued and the full extent of their history is unknown. Canines who aren’t socialized properly may have anxiety around other dogs and humans. They’re often simply not used to being with anyone else aside from their family members.

Traveling

Despite the photos you see of dogs enjoying the breeze with their heads out the car window, not all dogs like car rides. It may cause anxiety in some dogs since they don’t know where they’re going – it could be a visit to the vet or to the boarding kennel.

Perhaps they’ve had a bad experience such as being confined in an uncomfortable space in the vehicle, or arriving at a destination that caused them anxiety.

Dog Anxiety Symptoms

Certainly, each dog is an individual and they’re apt to show different symptoms of anxiety. You may also see several of the following signs together.

In addition, some cases of anxiety will be more severe than others. And, symptoms that appear only once or twice could suggest that Rover or Rosie just didn’t get enough exercise or mental stimulation that day.

If behaviors persist or escalate to more destruction or aggression, you’re likely dealing with a case of anxiety that needs to be resolved. Plus, you don’t want your fur baby to injure themselves or others with their actions.

 

Here’s a list of dog anxiety symptoms to look out for:

  • Aggression
  • Barking
  • Compulsive or repetitive behavior
  • Depression
  • Destroying things
  • Drooling excessively
  • Ears back
  • Escaping or trying to
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Refusing food
  • Restlessness
  • Tail tucked in
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Urinating or defecating inside
  • Whining

 

Treatment Options for Dog Anxiety

Before you embark on using any treatment, it’s a good move to rule out the possibility that an underlying medical issue is causing your dog’s symptoms. Enlist the assistance of your vet to make sure your doggo is healthy. If the investigation suggests that your pup has anxiety, your veterinarian can assist you to put together an appropriate treatment plan.

This may include medications as well as some of the ideas below. Most successful plans of action will involve a number of different methods, all focused on encouraging your dog to relax. Here are some things your vet may suggest.

CBD Oil

More and more, pet owners are discovering the benefits of CBD oil for dogs to reduce anxiety. This natural compound found in the hemp plant is extracted and made into a selection of safe pet oils and treats. If you are unfamiliar with CBD, check out this useful guide. Honest Paws CBD products are sold at all Best Friends Pet Hotel locations. The Calm line is design to help with anxiety.

 

Desensitization

There are things you can do to desensitize your dog to triggers that raise their anxiety level. For instance, if Snoopy or Stella shows signs of worry when you prepare to leave the house, pick up your keys and grab your bag like you’re heading out then put everything back again.

You can try desensitizing your canine friend to loud sounds by making quieter sounds and gradually moving up to louder sounds. As your pet gets used to these triggers, they’ll find them less anxiety-provoking.

Counter Conditioning

Counter conditioning builds on desensitization by training your doggo to judge stressors as a positive thing rather than a matter to be anxious about. Essentially, you offer your dog something good when their anxiety is triggered.

This could mean that whenever they hear thunder you give them a treat. If they have separation anxiety, when you leave the house put a food puzzle out for them to enjoy while you’re away. Your canine will start to anticipate getting something nice when these stressors happen.

Distraction

Taking your dog’s mind off whatever is causing them distress is a good move. You might try getting their attention with a treat, food puzzle, a toy, or engaging them in doing a few tricks.

The key is to have your pooch focus on something else and not on whatever is causing their anxious thoughts. Make an effort to pick a distraction that is sure to please them and mix things up as often as you have to in order to keep their attention.

Music Therapy

Some dogs enjoy a little background noise so that they don’t feel alone. Soothing music can also help calm your pooch. Would you believe that there are actually audio tracks available specifically for canines? Try a few selections and see what your pet responds to best.

Touch and Massage

You know the favorite places on your pup’s body where they enjoy your touch. Maybe an ear rub is what they respond to or they really like a back scratch. Think about how touch relaxes them. Use this to combat their anxiety and kick it up a notch with a nice doggie massage.

Training

There may be an advantage to hiring a professional dog trainer to encourage your pup to get over their anxiety. This is especially true if your pooch is showing aggression when under stress.

Look up any Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB or ACAAB) in your area to see what services they have available. This is another instance where your veterinarian may be able to advise you.

 Safety and Comfort

All dogs need comfortable safe places where they can relax and nap undisturbed. A soft pet bed and a favorite blanket can be used to bring their stress level down.

You can even buy heated pads for them to lie on to provide more comfort. Encourage your dog with praise and the odd treat when you see them taking a break in their safe space.

They’ll quickly begin to associate this with feeling protected and understand that it’s somewhere to soothe themselves when feeling anxious. A crate can also provide safety and comfort if it’s used this way.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you treat a dog with anxiety?

Treating dog anxiety usually involves a number of different methods such as CBD oil, counter conditioning, distraction, music therapy and more.

What are signs of anxiety in dogs?

Symptoms of dog anxiety run the gamut from changes in body language involving the ears and tail to behaviors such as whining and urinating inside.

How can I calm my dog’s anxiety naturally?

Offering nutritional supplements, providing exercise and mental stimulation, and socializing your dog are a few things you can try.