What is Distemper?
Distemper can be fatal and attacks several body systems including the respiratory and nervous system, and it can cause long term neurological problems (such as pain when touched and seizures). It enters the blood and spreads to the lymph nodes, killing the lymphocytes. The virus replicates in the lungs, which can lead to pneumonia.
The first signs of this disease are often sneezing, coughing and a mucus from the eyes and nose, followed by fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea, depression and weight loss.
Distemper is sometimes called ‘hard pad’ because the pads of the feet of affected dogs become very thickened.
The virus is highly infectious and can be transmitted through direct contact with fresh urine, blood or saliva, plus sneezing, coughing and sharing food or water bowls.
Dogs less than one year of age are most commonly affected (particularly 3-9 months old). However, those animals that have a weakened immune system are also susceptible.
Distemper is actually rarely seen in the UK these days. The virus is unstable in the environment and thus the main route of infection is via secretions from infected or shedding animals (vaccines contain live attenuated CDV).
Stats state that 50% of adults and 80% of puppies that get distemper do not survive.