Canine Distemper Disease is a very serious disease that affects the nervous, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems of a dog or a puppy. Canine Distemper affects many species of wildlife other than dogs and spreads through airborne exposure (such as sneezing or coughing) or by sharing food or water bowls.

Common Signs and Symptoms

  • Eye Discharge (usually clear and water or green and thick)
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Reduced appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Thickened and hardened footpads

If the disease has affected your dog’s nervous system, additional symptoms may occur. These symptoms include:

  • Circling behavior
  • Head-tilt 
  • Muscle twitches
  • Convulsions
  • Jaw-chewing movements and salivation
  • Seizures
  • Partial or complete paralysis

You can prevent your dog from contracting Canine Distemper disease by vaccinating him.  Vaccinating your dog is especially important since there is no known cure for the disease. Puppies require a series of vaccinations starting at six-eight weeks of age. Adult dogs require a vaccine every three years. Keeping up with your dog’s vaccinations is critical in preventing this disease as well as many others. If your dog or puppy has not received his vaccine or if you have any additional questions regarding Canine Distemper disease, contact your local veterinarian.

Whenever you suspect an illness, infection or virus of your dog, please contact your veterinarian.

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Society Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email

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