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Distemper in Dogs: 12 Symptoms and Treatment Options


Canine distemper is a viral illness that affects dogs. It is highly contagious, and can be spread among dogs and other animals including coyotes, ferrets, foxes, raccoons, and skunks, among others.

Distemper is caused by a virus that belongs to the same family as the viruses that result in human diseases like mumps and measles. Vaccines that protect against canine distemper do exist, and in many legal jurisdictions, they are required. However, since dogs are usually inoculated as puppies, they may be sold to new owners before all the necessary booster shots can be given. In such cases, the animal lacks adequate protection and will be at risk for catching distemper in the future.

Recognize the Symptoms of Canine Distemper

Distemper is considered a serious, potentially life-threatening condition, so contact your vet immediately if you notice any of these symptoms (note: treatment options are listed after the 7 symptoms below):

Symptom: Fever

One of the first clinical signs of canine distemper is a high fever (of more than 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit or 39.7 degrees Celsius). You will notice your dog is unusually warm to the touch, but it will also be obviously ill when you look at it, as the fever will be accompanied by red eyes and a runny, watery discharge coming from its eyes and nose.

Fever symptoms will usually appear three to six days after your dog is infected, once the virus takes root in your dog’s body. Increasingly severe symptoms will usually follow.

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