Add distemper to list of canine concerns

by Symptom Advice on March 17, 2012

By Matlin Smith

Current-Argus Staff Writer

CARLSBAD — several cases of a sometimes fatal, highly contagious virus have been cropping up recently in Carlsbad pets, one local veterinarian said Thursday.

Canine Distemper is a viral disease that is spread through the respiratory system and is especially prevalent in puppies, said Carlsbad Animal Care Center veterinarian Dr. Robin Sankey.

Symptoms of the disease usually begin with a fever and can progress from severe cough, runny nose, lack of appetite, diarrhea and dental disease up to seizures and other neurological problems that could last the remainder of the dog’s life.

“In my experience, most dogs that have progressed to seizures have died,” Sankey said.

Distemper can take between two weeks and three months after infection for the dog to make a full recovery or succumb to the virus if they didn’t receive proper vaccination early.

Sankey said the best way to prevent the 50 percent deadly disease is to vaccinate puppies when their maternal antibodies are wearing off, when they are between six and eight weeks old.

however, one initial vaccination will not prevent the disease, and as the protective antibodies wear off, puppies will require a series of vaccinations to ensure they don’t contract the virus.

If a dog has not been vaccinated and develops symptoms, Sankey said testing for the virus is difficult and takes several days to receive results.

“If a dog has distemper, you can’t vaccinate it to prevent the virus from getting worse, you just have to treat the secondary symptoms and let it run its course. some fully recover, but a lot die,” she said.

Older dogs are also highly susceptible to contracting distemper and should also be examined and properly vaccinated.

Sankey said unlike parvovirus and rabies, distemper cannot affect humans who come in contact with an infected dog.

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