Canine Diseases, Distemper, contagious viral disease, contaminated dog feces.

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This is a highly contagious viral disease. Dogs become infected with the virus through the upper respiratory tract (eyes, nose, and throat) by contact with contaminated feces, saliva, and sputum from infected dogs.

Dogs with distemper often start out with a fever and a cough, starting from three to twenty days after exposure. At this time, many dogs will have a very thick, greenish discharge from the eyes and nose. Pneumonia may follow, and some dogs will also show stomach and intestinal signs. Vomiting and diarrhea start, causing weight loss and dehydration. Of the dogs who survive this stage, about 50 percent go on to develop neurological symptoms, which can include blindness, circling, falling over, tremors, and seizures. Dogs with neurological symptoms are in critical condition.

Treatment of viral diseases therefore consists of doing everything you can to support your dog's basic health and keep her strength up while her own body defenses fight off the virus. Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics for your dog to help fight off bacteria that might take advantage of her lowered body defenses. Your dog may also need additional vitamins, fluids, and special foods. Good nursing care-keeping her warm, cleaning off discharges, encouraging her to eat-may all help your dog to recover faster. Despite all efforts, some dogs will die, and others will end up euthanized due to debilitating neurologic disease.

As with so many diseases, it is much easier and makes much more sense to try to prevent distemper in the first place. This is easily accomplished by vaccinations. Most puppies receive distemper in their initial series of vaccinations with a booster a year later.