Canine distemper is a very serious and highly contagious disease that is caused by a virus. It is transmitted through airborne exposure to the virus, which usually comes from contact with the respiratory secretions of an infected animal.
The disease effects dogs, foxes, wolves, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, and ferrets. However, the virus does not infect humans. Canine distemper is often fatal, and if an infected dog does survive, its nervous system could be permanently damaged.
Usually, the first sign of the disease is an eye discharge, which can be clear and watery or thick and green. Dogs then develop a fever, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea. The virus may attack the nervous system and cause seizures, twitching, or paralysis. Sometimes, it may even cause the dog’s footpads to harden.
Fortunately, there is an effective vaccine to prevent the disease. Vaccination and avoiding contact with infected animals and wildlife are important elements in the prevention of canine distemper. Since puppies are particularly susceptible to distemper, it is critical that they receive their vaccinations at the appropriate times. Puppies need a series of vaccinations to be adequately protected, so puppy owners should use caution in exposing their young dogs to other dogs until the series is complete. Your veterinarian can advise you on the proper timing of vaccinations.