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 Canine distemper

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PostSubject: Canine distemper   Sun Jul 01, 2007 9:07 am

Distemper, which was first discovered in the early 1900ís, is a very infectious disease that causes death in 50% - 80% of all dogs that are infected. The younger the dog, the greater the chance of death.

For many years Distemper has been the most feared of all canine diseases possibly only surpassed by Parvo today.

Not only does Canine Distemper affect dogs but it affects other animals such as ferrets, seals, mink, weasels and their kin among the Mustelidae family as well as raccoons, pandas and other members of the Procyonidae family. It has even been thought to have been the cause of the deaths of a number of African Lions.

Distemper is an RNA virus from the same viral family that causes measles in humans. Although from the same family, distemper is not transmittable to humans. Although contracted by puppies, dogs of all ages are susceptible.

Diagnosing distemper can be difficult as it has many of the same symptoms as other illnesses. Some signs of distemper are transient fever, loss of appetite and mild depression as symptoms at the onset. Other dogs are affected by a systemic illness with nasal and ocular discharges, coughing, vomiting and diarrhea.

Seizures, behavioral changes, walking in circles and other ambulatory problems commonly develop. Many dogs who show neurologic signs develop what is scientifically known as chorea - rhythmic motions or "tics". Dogs that survive both the initial infection and subsequent neurologic disease may go on to develop retinal damage, corneal discoloration or extreme hardness of the skin of the nose or foot pads and sometimes even a lifetime of seizures.

Currently there is no cure for distemper. The only thing that can be done is supportive care and control of neurologic signs. Often times when a dog is diagnosed with distemper it is advised that it be euthanized due to the lifetime of illnesses that they face.

Because distemper is present in every bodily excretion and can be spread from contact, human to animal transmission and even through airborne transmission, it is critical that puppies be vaccinated to prevent infection from occurring.

Vaccinations should begin at approximately 6 weeks. Because the motherís milk often interferes with vaccination potency, a regular interval of shots should be given after the first dose and around week 9, 12, 16 and annually thereafter. Doing this will help insure that the dog receives the full value of the vaccination and is of minimal risk to contraction throughout its life.

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