Distemper in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Canine distemper is a highly infectious and lethal disease that is 100% preventable. This is the very reason to get your doggy vaccinated at a very young age. The problem with this disease is that it can easily be contracted from other dogs and places including park, groomer or kennel.


Let us look at this disease in depth:

Symptoms Of Distemper In Dogs 

Distemper in puppies and dogs can be spread through air or direct or indirect contact with the infected animal. This disease directly attacks a dog’s tonsils and lymph nodes initially and then swifts to urogenital, gastrointestinal, respiratory and nervous systems.

The symptoms of this disease include:

  • Anorexia
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhoea
  • High fever
  • Lethargy
  • Redness in the eye
  • Water discharge from noses and eyes

It can even result in the following symptoms at a later stage:

  • Hysteria
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures

This disease is also known as a hard pad disease that can cause the pads of the dog’s feet to enlarge or thicken. If the dog has a weak immune system, it can result in death after two to five weeks of infection.


The infection spreads through moist breath, saliva, urine and faeces. A non-immune dog can come in contact with the virus within five to fourteen days of infection.


The veterinarian will make the diagnosis on the basis of the symptoms mentioned above. He/she will get a fair idea of the infection from the general blood report that would show a shift in certain white cell lines that point to viral infection. Chest radiology would aid in detecting other conditions like heart disease as one of the reasons resulting in the cough. He/she would also conduct other tests to measure the immune response to the dog’s body to the distemper virus.


Currently there is no distemper shot that can cure dogs from canine distemper. But there is a DHPP vaccination for distemper, hepatitis, parvo and para-influenza. It works 100% against canine distemper. You can alleviate the symptoms of canine distemper through:

  • Anorexia or diarrhoea: IV fluids
  • Secondary bacterial infection: antibiotics
  • Convulsions and seizures: phenobarbitals and potassium bromide
  • Watery discharge from eyes and nose: cleaned away on a regular basis


If you get to know that your doggy has been infected by distemper do not despair. It has been observed that this virus survives in fluids for approximately 20 minutes and then is killed by common disinfectants. This disease can be prevented through regular vaccination. It is recommended to vaccinate your puppy for the first time when he is around 6 to 8 weeks of age and then again when he is 10 to 12 weeks. Then give the vaccination after a year and every two years after that.