Distemper in Dogs: Causes, Stages and Treatment

Moquillo en perros: Causas,etapas y tratamientos

Distemper in dogs, or distemper, is a highly contagious disease that mainly affects dogs when they are puppies. Cats are safe, as this particular type of virus does not affect them. They can suffer from another type of virus, the feline distemper, which has nothing to do with the canine.

The level of danger of this disease is high, since it can be lethal for dogs . Getting the virus to be similar to human measles. At the moment; Thanks to the vaccine, it is no longer so frequent in our pets, but occasionally we can meet patients infected with this virus.

If you are interested in learning more about the subject, we invite you to continue reading.

What is distemper in dogs?

Canine distemper (also called canine distemper) is a disease that usually affects young dogs during the first months of life, although some can also manifest it in adulthood. Canine distemper or distemper is a highly contagious disease that can affect the respiratory system, digestive system and/or nervous system. It is a serious disease with a very reserved prognosis since many of the affected animals can lose their lives as a result of the clinical signs caused by the virus.

What are the symptoms of distemper in dogs?

The symptoms are diverse and can occur all together or separately. Once between 3 and 6 days have passed after infection, the first symptoms of canine distemper may appear, which are usually mild and could go unnoticed, these are:

  • Severe fever and malaise
  • Not wanting to do anything

However, when the immune system is already very weakened, and after an incubation period of two weeks, some other of these symptoms may appear with greater intensity, such as:

  • Difficulty breathing and coughing, sneezing, eye discharge, nasal discharge, tonsillitis, and pneumonia with dyspnea
  • Lack of appetite and losing weight
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • Dehydration and weight loss

The most effective measure to reduce and prevent distemper in our dog is, without a doubt, through vaccination. Therefore, it is vitally important to comply in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule.

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When we talk about puppies, it is normal for them to receive 3 vaccinations to immunize them against distemper between the 6th and 12th week of life. After these first times, the distemper vaccine will be injected regularly once a year and as a reminder.

Likewise, if there is a high incidence of distemper in dogs in the area where you live, you will have to take greater care of hygiene and clean regularly. Logically, it should be avoided at all costs that healthy animals come into contact with sick ones.

Treatment for distemper in dogs

There is no treatment to eliminate the virus once it has manifested itself. The only therapy that can be administered is to alleviate the clinical signs and limit the further progress of possible bacterial infections that have appeared, a consequence of distemper in dogs. In the event of seizures, anticonvulsant drugs can be used and, in the event of respiratory distress, it can be alleviated with oxygen therapy.

Remember that the vet is the best person to advise you in each specific case , and if you consider that your pet may be infected, go as quickly as possible, the sooner treatment begins, the better the prognosis.

Does distemper in dogs spread to humans?

If a dog has distemper, normally the human living with it will not suffer any harm. However, it is believed that there may be some rare cases in which a dog has distemper and the human suffers a kind of mild flu, but certainly much less severe than the symptoms presented by dogs.

Can a dog that had distemper get it again?

The distemper virus can remain in locations protected by the immune system (defenses) such as neurological tissue, eyes and paw pads). It is believed that the animal that has overcome a distemper is protected against the disease for life, but situations of immunosuppression (lowered defenses), high exposure to distemper or stress situations can cause the virus to pass this protective barrier.

Does the dog fully recover from distemper?

Unfortunately, the chances of curing distemper in dogs are pretty slim in most cases. Distemper in dogs is a serious disease that entails serious complications in the nervous system , leading to seizures, difficulty in movement and the ability to control their extremities.

  • Rashes or pustules on the skin
  • Hardening of the pads, and skin infections
  • Eye infection and conjunctivitis
  • Seizures or involuntary muscle contractions
  • jaw movements
  • Head tilt or paralysis

Not all dogs show all symptoms. However, the disease is undoubtedly life-threatening.

What varieties of distemper disease in dogs are there?

The canine distemper virus can give rise to different clinical forms and depending on the form, the veterinarian will prescribe a certain treatment:


It is the most common, where the symptoms of fever, diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia and conjunctivitis appear between 7 and 14 days of incubation.


This type of distemper affects the central nervous system from a systemic disease and among the symptoms there is paralysis of the hind limbs, seizures, involuntary urination and even blindness, among other symptoms.


It is rare and usually appears in dogs older than 6 years. The symptoms that are observed are: paralysis, head tremors, etc.

How is distemper spread in dogs?

Puppies and dogs often become infected through airborne exposure (by sneezing or coughing) to the virus from an infected dog or wild animal. The virus can also be spread by sharing food and water bowls and equipment. Infected dogs can carry the virus for months, and mothers can pass the virus to their pups through the placenta.

Dogs infected with distemper should be separated from other dogs to minimize the risk of further infection.

How is distemper diagnosed and treated?

Veterinarians diagnose distemper through laboratory tests. And although there is no cure for distemper infection. Treatment generally consists of palliative care and attempts to prevent secondary infection, control vomiting, diarrhea, and neurologic symptoms, and combat dehydration by administering fluids.

How to prevent distemper or distemper in dogs?

It is not a curable disease, but it is treatable to alleviate the symptoms and control them. Fortunately, a dog that has the disease under control will not infect other dogs, since they are no longer hosts for the virus.


Canine distemper is a serious disease that can be deadly for our puppies. Therefore, the best way to prevent and keep them 100% protected will be to vaccinate them against the distemper virus when they are still puppies.

In addition, the functioning of the immune system plays a very important role with respect to the possible consequences of a distemper infection.

We can help you with CBD for dogs to avoid unnecessary stress and help calm your negative emotions. If you are interested in knowing more about why a puppy can react aggressively in certain situations, such as when visiting the vet, I invite you to read the article aggression in dogs .

When you have to prepare food for your pet, you can choose to choose this oil:

Eating a balanced diet with high-quality food will also help significantly to strengthen the defenses of our pets. In addition, if necessary, the administration of food supplements can be useful to strengthen their immune system.


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