What is distemper? Should I keep my animals apart if one has it?
Distemper is a viral infection of dogs that used to be called “hard pad disease” because it causes hard calluses on their nose and footpads. Early symptoms involve the respiratory tract – runny eyes and nose, fever and coughing. Infected animals may then start to vomit and have diarrhea. The virus then moves to the brain and that’s when leg weakness, tremors and seizures can be seen. These neurological symptoms can take several weeks to appear and if the dog survives, they can be permanent.
If one of your dogs has been diagnosed with distemper, it’s too late to keep them apart because the others will already have been exposed. Treatment is supportive, for example intravenous fluids to counteract vomiting and diarrhea and antibiotics for any secondary bacterial infections. The virus doesn’t survive well in the environment so you don’t need to use strong disinfectants to kill it. It’s important to be aware that if dogs recover from distemper infection, they can shed virus for several months so keep them away from dog parks and other places where dogs congregate.
If a dog survives distemper infection they are likely to have long lasting immunity to the virus. For other dogs, the best way to prevent distemper infection is with vaccination.
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