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What is Canine Distemper?


Canine Distemper Virus - commonly referred to as distemper - is a contagious viral infection that can cause airway, lung, eye, urinary, intestinal, and central nervous system symptoms.


Unvaccinated dogs and dogs with weakened immune systems are the most at risk of catching distemper from an infected dog or wildlife, such as raccoons. Distemper is spread through bodily fluids including saliva and mucus and can be passed through the air or surfaces. Distemper can be fatal and could have lasting neurological impacts, but with supportive care, dogs can survive and go on to live long lives.


How is distemper spread?


Distemper is spread to unvaccinated dogs and dogs with weakened immune systems just like the common cold - through contact with bodily secretions of infected dogs or wildlife, such as raccoons. Sneezing, coughing, nasal secretions, and saliva can all spread distemper. Unvaccinated dogs can also get distemper through sharing water bowls, touching noses, or being in the same place at the same time as dogs or wildlife with distemper.


With distemper, prevention is key. Distemper is very difficult to control among unvaccinated dog populations because dogs infected with distemper can take up to 14 days to begin showing symptoms, however, they can begin spreading the illness to other dogs during that incubation period.


What are the symptoms of distemper?


The main clinical signs are diarrhea, vomiting, thick yellow discharge from the eyes and nose, cough, and, in severe cases, seizures and neurological signs. Dogs that recover from the disease may be left with persistent nervous muscular twitches and recurrent (repeated) seizures.


How can I make sure my dog is safe?


Prevention is key! If your dog is up to date on vaccinations, including the distemper vaccine (DA2PP), then they are at minimal risk for contracting distemper.


If your dog's vaccinations are not current then they need your help! Distemper is spreading throughout our community so your dog needs to be vaccinated as soon as possible. Please contact your veterinarian to make an appointment or visit one of the free vaccination clinics at Dallas Animal Services, funded by Friends of Dallas Animal Services through a generous grant from Maddie's Fund #ThankstoMaddie.

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