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What is Canine Distemper?

Updated on November 30, 2016

Canine distemper has existed for nearly a thousand years and has always been considered a dangerous ailment in young pups, but not nearly so fatal to dogs more than a year old. The contagion is contained in the discharge from the nose and eyes and in the blood. Distemper is a contagious infective disease. The true nature of this ailment has not yet been positively demonstrated; however, the contagion is no doubt both fixed and volatile. It is transmitted by cohabitation, by inoculation and perhaps taken from the air in breathing. Old dogs seldom suffer from canine distemper. Weak, delicate dogs or those kept in-doors, are easily infected.

Photo by Ruben Martinez
Photo by Ruben Martinez

Canine Distemper Symptoms

The symptoms of distemper vary greatly. The mucous membrane of the nostrils, eyes, air passages and digestive organs are inflamed. The brain and spinal cord may be affected. The dog shivers and has fever; the coat is dry, the eyes discharge and ulcers sometimes appear on the eyeball.

The dog coughs, loses his appetite, is thirsty, vomits and the bowels are either costive or too loose. It is not unusual for pneumonia to follow distemper.

Canine Distemper Treatment

It is quite difficult to lay down any particular line of treatment for there are so many different forms of distemper; therefore, I will say quinine is a useful remedy and small doses of beech wood creosote is another good remedy. If feverish, give acetanilide. Cod liver oil, raw eggs, alcoholic stimulants and nutritious, easily-digested food help all cases of distemper. When complications arise they must be met with a proper remedy. When sick, keep the dog warm, dry and comfortable.

It is advisable however, to consult your vet for sound veterinarian advice.


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