Distemper Blog

What is Distemper and Can A Vaccine Protect My Dog?

There is a canine distemper virus outbreak in Dubai so if you’re a dog owner there are a few things you can do to protect your pup. Making sure you have enough information about the distemper virus and how to keep your dog safe are two of the most important things you can do right now.


What is Distemper?

Distemper is a serious and highly contagious disease caused by the distemper virus. The virus can affect dogs and rodents like ferrets, skunks and raccoons. It does not affect cats and humans.

Distemper is a serious illness and often attacks multiple organs, eventually leading to their deterioration and failure. It attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems and is often fatal especially for puppies and dogs whose immunity to the virus isn’t properly developed. The survival rate for puppies is only 20% and that of adult dogs is 50%, so prevention really is the best strategy in this case.

What Are the Symptoms of Distemper in Dogs?

The distemper virus is a very aggressive virus. Symptoms include:

    •  Watery eyes with pus like discharge
    • Fever
    • Nasal discharge
    • Coughing
    • Lethargy and fatigue
    • Reduced appetite
    • Vomiting

The virus normally takes two to four weeks to become terminal but some older dogs can suffer from it for months. Once the nervous system is affected however, it’s only a matter of days before a dog succumbs to the illness.

Symptoms typically show up any time between one to four weeks after contracting the virus. However a dog can become contagious up to five days BEFORE showing any symptoms and can therefore infect other dogs without anyone knowing it is carrying the virus. A dog that has survived the virus continues to remain contagious up to four months after recovery which means it can infect other dogs who are exposed to it during this period.

Distemper is a difficult disease to manage even in dogs that do survive as it can leave them with respiratory problems like chronic pneumonia and long lasting seizures. It is a painful illness and can leave a dog exhausted and unable to return to normal for a long time.

How Does Distemper Spread Among Dogs?

The virus spreads mainly through socialization and contact with an infected dog’s body fluids such as discharge from eyes and nose along with droplets spread during coughing. It can however also spread by contact with an infected dog’s vomit, urine, and feces.

Any time an infected dog comes into close contact with other dogs such as during socialization or play, it can infect them as well. Once discharged by an infected dog during sneezing or coughing for example, the virus can travel up to four feet and infect other dogs in its radius. It can also travel on objects (inanimate and animate) including people. The virus doesn’t infect humans but can travel on them and be picked up by other dogs causing the dogs to become infected.

The canine distemper virus is not very resilient on its own and cannot survive more than a few hours in a room temperature environment. Exposing it to sunlight, drying out items, and using common household cleaners and disinfectants on surfaces can kill the virus effectively.

How Can I Protect My Dog from Distemper?

There are two ways to keep your dog safe from the virus.

1- Avoid Socialization with Other Dogs

Avoid taking your dog to doggy parks to play with other dogs. Limit socialization with other dogs when on a walk etc. Keep your dog away from other dogs as infected dogs that are not showing symptoms can still transmit the virus.

2- Ensure All Vaccinations are Up to Date

Make sure your dog has received all his/her vaccinations and get them a booster shot if needed. You can take your dog to the vet to check for its immunity against the virus. An antibody titer test is used for this and vets are happy to provide it as it can determine whether your dog is susceptible and needs a booster shot or whether it has sufficient immunity already.

The canine distemper vaccine’s efficacy is three years but in Dubai all pets must have their vaccinations updated yearly. Even vaccinated dogs can get infected and become dangerously ill so it’s a good idea to get your pup’s immunity levels against the virus tested to make sure they have the best chance of survival should they somehow become infected.

The vaccine takes three to five days after it is administered to provide protection against the virus in dogs who are five months and older. Puppies are more susceptible as their immunity is still developing and it can take a while before they have enough antibodies. It is not safe for a puppy to mix with other dogs until it has completed it’s first full set of vaccinations at least.

Some dogs cannot be vaccinated due to health problems or old age or do not have the desired reaction to vaccinations and may therefore lack enough antibodies. In such cases you will have to consult your vet and follow their guidelines on how to keep your dog safe.

If you notice your dog developing any symptoms then don’t attempt to treat him/her yourself. Contact your veterinarian immediately. Time is of the essence in this case and could mean the difference between life or death. Until the current outbreak of cases slows down, it is best to be vigilant and prepared.

Here’s hoping all pups and all pets remain safe and in the best of health always 🍀🍀🍀



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