Viral diseases

Canine Distemper Virus: Symptoms, Treatment and Home Remedies

Ameera Mills
By Ameera Mills. Updated: January 30, 2019
Canine Distemper Virus: Symptoms, Treatment and Home Remedies

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Canine distemper referred to also ashard pad disease or distemper in dogs, is one of the most common and deadliest contagious diseases among dogs. Canine distemper affects a dog’s digestive tract and respiratory system. In more serious cases it can also affect a dog’s nervous system.

Distemper in dogs is caused by a virus from the Paramyxoviridae family, similar to human measles. The canine distemper virus also affects other canids such as the Australian wild dog (or dingo), coyotes, jackals, foxes and wolves. This virus can even affect some mustelidae species such weasels, skunks and otters.

Canine distemper is an incredibly serious disease and if you believe that your dog is showing any canine distemper symptoms, action needs to be taken immediately. For more, about canine distemper symptoms, treatment and home remedies, keep reading here at AnimalWised.

You may also be interested in: Canine Distemper Treatment at Home
  1. Canine distemper: virus
  2. Canine distemper transmission
  3. Canine distemper: symptoms
  4. Canine distemper: treatment
  5. Canine distemper: home remedies
  6. Canine distemper: prevention
  7. Distemper in dogs: care
  8. Can distemper be passed from dogs to humans?

Canine distemper: virus

Canine distemper is a highly contagious virus. The canine distemper virus can affect wide variety of animals and if symptoms of distemper in dogs are noticed, they should not be ignored. Immediate treatment for distemper in dogs must be your priority.

Distemper in dogs can be compared to a kind of measles in humans. Puppies, sick and older dogs, whom both generally have lower immunity, are more prone to suffering from distemper in dogs. It mainly affects puppies, although it can also appear in elderly dogs, who will suffer more from distemper symptoms.

In theory, if we you have followed the correct dog vaccination schedule, likeliness of catching canine distemper virus is significantly lowered. Currently, there is a vaccine available to prevent canine distemper, but its effectiveness is not 100%. Immunosuppressed dogs, for example, are more vulnerable to the transmission of this disease, even when vaccinated. Good nutrition, quality caring and a stress-free life will certainly help your dog remain healthy and strong. For more, we recommend taking a look at our article where we tell you everything you need to know about vaccination schedule for puppies and dogs.

Canine Distemper Virus: Symptoms, Treatment and Home Remedies - Canine distemper: virus

Canine distemper transmission

Distemper occurs when a healthy animal comes into contact with viral particles in the air, present in aerosol form. Viral particles form because of the -previous or present- presence of a sick animal.

All dogs are at risk of contracting canine distemper. However, those who are most at risk are dogs that have not been vaccinated against canine distemper, and puppies who are less than four months old. Puppies who are breastfed get protection through their mother's milk (if their mother is vaccinated), but such protection is not 100% effective.

Canine distemper can also be transmitted in other ways such as through infected animal fluids or from the water and food they have consumed. The virus incubates for about 14 to 18 days in the dog´s body, then symptoms will gradually begin to appear.

Basically, all dogs are vulnerable to the distemper virus, although those who are vaccinated will be less likely to contract the disease[1].

Canine distemper: symptoms

What are the symptoms of canine distemper? The first symptom of distemper is a watery or pussy discharge in the eyes. In later stages, fever, nasal secretion, coughing, lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea can appear. In some cases a thickening of the paw pads occurs. In advanced stages of the disease the dog's nervous system can be affected. In these cases seizures, spasm or paralysis (partial or complete) may occur.

Most dogs who get distemper die. Those who survive the disease often present behavioural disorders caused by the damage to the nervous system.

It can be difficult to detect canine distemper in its early stages because its symptoms are not always obvious. It could be that the dog looks a little tired and the owner links the state to excessive physical activity or hot weather. If you are in doubt, you should immediately take your dog to the vet.

In summary, the symptoms of distemper in dogs include:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • General depression
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Corneal Ulcer
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hardening of the paw pads
  • Skin rashes
  • Ataxia
  • Involuntary muscle movements
  • Seizures
  • Apoplexy
Canine Distemper Virus: Symptoms, Treatment and Home Remedies - Canine distemper: symptoms

Canine distemper: treatment

When one or more symptoms have appeared, distemper in dogs treatment is mandatory. Take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. A veterinarian will carry out the relevant tests and form a diagnosis accordingly. Thereafter, treatment begins, always under the supervision of an expert. Remember that the sooner canine distemper is diagnosed, the higher the chances are of survival.

Once a dog is infected, vaccine administration becomes ineffective. Canine distemper is incurable, but symptoms can be alleviated through treatment. This is in addition to avoiding dehydration and preventing the appearance of secondary infections. When necessary, a veterinarian may recommend euthanasia to avoid further suffering.

Treatment for canine distemper is usually presented in the form of antibiotics and vitamin supplements. Keeping your dog hydrated is of the utmost importance when treating canine distemper. For more, we recommend taking a look at our article homemade solution for dehydrated dogs.

Canine Distemper Virus: Symptoms, Treatment and Home Remedies - Canine distemper: treatment

Canine distemper: home remedies

Next, we will be highlighting some home remedies for canine distemper. It is essential to remember that these remedies do not substitute veterinary treatment. In addition, you should always consult your veterinarian before changing or adding anything to your dog’s diet or treatment.

  • Animals that suffer from fever are immediately susceptible to dehydration. This is why if your dog has a fever, you need to make sure that it drinks enough water. If your dog refuses to drink water, consult your veterinarian about the possibility of administering liquid through syringe. In the case of veterinary hospitalization, it is also possible to prescribe fluid therapy.Cold compresses can also be useful in reducing fever in dogs. Wet a cloth, wring it out well and gently rub it on your dog’s belly. You can also wrap your dog up in a well drained towel. However, we only advise this aforementioned option in summer to avoid excessive decrease in body temperature. For more, take a look at our article where we discuss fever in dogs: symptoms and treatment.
  • Is your dog with canine distemper not eating? Lack of appetite is a very common symptom of canine distemper. However, it is essential that we try to make sure our dog eats. In fact, canine distemper recovery depends on nutrition. In this case, we recommend offering your dog wet food, which is easier to digest and offers your dog a higher liquid intake. Give your dog heated wet food with warm water or broth (NO onion or salt). Offer your dog various food options to heighten appetite. Some foods we recommend giving your dog include shredded chicken and/or liver. For more about dogs not eating, consult our article on my dog won’t eat or drink.
  • Coughing is often a serious symptom of canine distemper in dogs. It is important to treat this symptom effectively.Make sure to clean your home with only enzymatic products,removing traces of dust, dirt or organic matter. Avoid smoking around your dog. If possible, try to increase air humidity in your home with a humidifier. If you don’t have one, you can opt for taking your animal to the bathroom while you shower.If possible, when walking your dog, try and replace its collar with a harness to avoid trachea and larynx irritation. In addition, be sure to offer your dog a calm environment, as coughing in dogs can often cause heightened stress and anxiety. In addition, consult your veterinarian to administer antitussives.Read up about coughing in dogs in our article dog burping and coughing: is it normal?
  • Vomiting is another common symptom of distemper in dogs. This disease commonly causes gastrointestinal infection in dogs, which results in damage to the dog’s stomach. If your dog has vomited, we recommend restricting food for a couple of hours giving its stomach and throat some time to recuperate. Has your dog with distemper been vomiting? If this is the case, we recommend offering your dog smaller food quantities every 4 hours. Opt rather for soft wet dog feed. You can also mix this feed with cooked rice or cooked skinless chicken (without bones or salt).
  • Another consequence of gastritis in dogs derived from distemper, is diarrhea (with or without blood). As in the previous case, we advise restricting food intake for a few hours and opt for a soft diet for dogs with diarrhea.
  • Tremors are very common in dogs with canine distemper. These attacks usually affect the extremities, but can also target the cranial area, resulting in excessive masticatory movements. These attacks can also appear when the dog is asleep. In serious cases, you may also notice that in addition to trembling, your dog may not be able to walk. If this is the case, DO NOT move your dog. Call your veterinarian immediately. For more, take a look at our article: why is my dog trembling and can’t walk?
  • Breathing problems is a common symptom of canine distemper. Begin by cleaning your dog’s nasal discharges, which are usually green and purulent. Cleaning can be done with a gauze dampened in warm water. Hot food also promotes decongestion. Offer your dog a warm bowl of broth once a day (NO salt or onions). Make sure that the temperature of the broth is not too hot, avoiding burns. Is your dog struggling to breathe? For more take a look at our article: dog breathing difficulties.
  • Eye secretions in dogs can be treated with antibiotics, always prescribed by professional. It is also important to remove eye gunk in dogs using a sterile gauze moistened in warm water. Better yet, opt rather for optic solution, sold in pharmacies. For more, take a look at how to clean a dog’s eyes.

Canine distemper: prevention

The only proven way to prevent distemper is to vaccinate your dog against the disease. The canine distemper vaccine, as we’ve already mentioned, is not 100% effective. In addition, vaccinated puppies can occasionally get sick. This can occur specifically when the immunity offered through suckling, prevents the vaccine from taking effect and leaves the puppy unprotected.

The canine distemper vaccine should be given for the first time when the puppy is between 6 and 8 weeks old and then it will receive an annual booster. During dog pregnancy, you should be careful and consult a veterinarian before administering vaccinations as the antibodies can be transmitted to the puppies during lactation. Remember, if a dog has not yet been vaccinated, do not take it outside. [2].

For more about puppy care, we recommend taking a look at our article where we tell you everything you need to know about caring for puppies.

Distemper in dogs: care

Canine distemper symptoms will affect different dogs in different ways. We must therefore make sure that our dog is always comfortable, stable and loved. In addition, there are some extra measure that can be taken when caring for a dog that has canine distemper, these include:

  • Hydration: Ask your vet what are the most appropriate options. AnimalWised recommends plenty of water or homemade chicken broth (without salt or spices). If your pet does not want to drink, try helping it using a syringe without a needle.
  • Nutrition: As in the case of liquids, your dog may not want to eat due to canine distemper discomfort. Give it premium canned food as it is much more appetizing than regular food; your dog will also feel pampered and this will help its recovery. In addition, wet food will also provide hydration.
  • B complex vitamins: In the case of distemper in dogs, they will have a positive effect on the animal's muscles.
  • Follow the advice given by your veterinarian: The canine distemper virus is difficult to cure, so remember it must be your priority to care for your dog and other pets that may live with you.
Canine Distemper Virus: Symptoms, Treatment and Home Remedies - Distemper in dogs: care

Can distemper be passed from dogs to humans?

Is canine distemper zoonotic? No, canine distemper is not a zoonotic disease. There are some very rare cases where humans have caught the CDV infection, which causes no symptoms. However, if vaccinated against measles, humans are protected against both the canine distemper virus and the asymptomatic CDV infection.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Canine Distemper Virus: Symptoms, Treatment and Home Remedies, we recommend you visit our Viral diseases category.

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jwala singh banafer
sir my dog is iffected with CDV please give me any solution for dog.He didn't drink water only eating food my dog was scrumbling any time and his body was also warm at the time so please give any most effective solution for the dog
I had Labrador male puppy...It has red spots on his eyelids and swelling on his upper nose and hot spots on his belly sides... What can i do for's serious or normal...plsss tell me about this
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Reshma,

We are sorry, but as the article states, it is for imformation purposes only. We cannot diagnose your puppy's problem. Only a qualified veterinarian will be able to do so.
Raman kumar
Meray pitbul ko canine distemper h mirgi aur muh she jhaag a RHA h sahi se chal nahi pa RHA h kaanp RHA h kirpya ilaj batay 2.5 mahine ka h do vaccine lag chuke h
hi sir my dog eye infection plz solution.....
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Sai,

If your dog has an infection, the best course of action will likely be antibiotics, but this will need to be prescribed by a veterinarian. They will also be able to provide an adequate diagnosis as what appears to be an eye infection could be the symptom of a larger problem.
My dog has diagnosed with CD infection..I am afraid taht he will die..Is there any chance for his recovery??please reply
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Anu,

We are very sorry to hear it. We cannot possibly diagnose any medical issue with your pet in these comments, it would be irresponsible. CD is dangerous, but it is possible to recover. The prognosis will depend on the individual and needs to be given by a qualified vet. They are the only ones able to give an estimate for recovery, but even then there are many variables. We wish you and your dog all the best and hope for a speedy recovery.
How many times a day does B COMPLEX VIT. can take by my dog with distemper?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Madz,

Dogs should get their sufficient vitamins through diet only. If a homemade diet is provided, then they may need supplementary vitamins, but it working out what they need is a complicated business and requires a lot of specific nutritional knowledge.

Giving vitamins to dogs is usually fine, but it does run the risk over harming the dog if they are incorrect and in too high a dosage. Also, human vitamins should never be given to dogs. Vitamins may, in rare occasions, be prescribed by vets. If this happens, they will let you know how they should be administered. Always check with a vet before giving your dog any supplements. In most cases, there will be no need.
Can you suggest one best antibiotic and vitamin for my dog suffering from distemper
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Francis
The vitamins and/or antibiotics need to be prescribed by your veterinarian. Therefore we suggest asking your vet to take a look at your dog as all cases are different. AnimalWised
What antibiotic should I administer to my dog suffering from distemper and vitamin too. Your suggestion will save my dog life.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Francis
We recommend taking your dog to the vet as soon as possible. If you catch the virus early on your vet can administer a canine distemper vaccine, antibiotics or vitamins. However, if the virus has spread, it is un-treatable, but symptoms can be alleviated through constant hydration, good nutrition and vitamins. We hope this helps, AnimalWised
Ved nain
My dog has distemper
Administrador AnimalWised
We're sorry to hear it, we wish them a speedy recovery.
Hi. How is your dog now? Did you bring it to vet ? My dog has distemper too 😔 What vitamins or antibiotics did your dog take?
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Canine Distemper Virus: Symptoms, Treatment and Home Remedies