Vet's Corner

Canine Distemper Alert in Arizona

Being a common disease among dogs, canine distemper is not only a serious disease, but many times is also a fatal one. It is caused by a virus family known as paramyxovirus, which is quite similar to the ones that cause measles in humans. Puppies are the most common targets of this disease, especially ones who have missed their inoculations. But in more recent studies, older dogs are also proven likely to catch it as well.

The Arizona Humane Society (AHS) recently released alert reports and information about two new strains of distemper in America. These strains were found to be more dangerous than the normal distemper as it takes even longer than the usual 1-2-week incubation.

So how does distemper work? The virus comes from the cough (and sometimes urine) of infected animals, then your pets inhale the virus. It works its way towards the respiratory tract (especially the lymph nodes), central nervous system, and gastrointestinal system. Various symptoms occur (though may vary on different breeds), such as nasal discharge, eye discharge, thickening of foot pads, vomiting, dehydration, lethargy, excessive salivation, weight loss, seizures, and diarrhea.

So how do medical experts diagnose canine distemper? One method is called polymerase chain reaction test which is done on urine, blood, tissues, and fluid samples of your dog. They also examine the paws to see if they have thickened.

AHS strongly suggests that there be mandatory vaccination of pets in shelters to avoid sudden outbreaks of the said disease, as it has no specific cure yet. When these symptoms occur in your dog, you should go to the nearest veterinarian immediately for advice. Also, if you are worried about his safety, have him receive shots from these vets. There are also many other ways to prevent canine distemper and reduce the infection rate. First and foremost is a clean home; remember that prevention is better than cure. Be wary of unfamiliar dogs in public places such as parks. However, getting vaccinated is still the best option, as it potentially eliminates the threats of infection, especially if it’s still a pup below 6 months of age.

For dogs that are already been infected with canine distemper, no need to worry. There are alternatives to helping your pet survive, such as intravenous fluids that help when your dog is dehydrated. And if the dog experiences seizures, there are also a number of anti-seizure methods and medications. Just remember that if your dog is infected, he should be quarantined to prevent the virus from infecting other pets in your neighborhood.

As of today, AHS is working with Oklahoma State University in doing a research study on the said virus, with the purpose of creating new treatments and inoculations for these newest strains.

Please share this information with other dog owners below, so all can be on the alert and catch any possible symptom early.

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