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Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) is a viral disease that infects the gastrointestinal, respiratory, and central nervous systems. Dogs who have not been vaccinated for Canine Distemper are the most at-risk. While the disease can also be contracted when improperly vaccinated or when a dog has high susceptibility to bacterial infection, these cases are rare.

CDV can be spread through direct contact (licking, breathing air, etc.) or indirect contact (bedding, toys, food bowls, etc.), though it cannot live on surfaces for very long. Inhaling the virus is the primary method of exposure. There is no known cure for CDV, and quick response to the disease greatly improves your pet’s chances at survival, especially for younger puppies. Because of its severity, we advise you to contact our office as soon as you notice something might be wrong.

Symptoms of Canine Distemper Virus:

CDV initially attacks the tonsils and lymph nodes, and symptoms can be unnoticeable for the first 6 to 9 days. Pay close attention to your pet for any of the following ailments, as they may indicate CDV: 

  • Bloodshot eyes. 
  • Coughing. 
  • Diarrhea. 
  • Fever. 
  • Lack of interest in food. 
  • Lethargy and tiredness.
  • Paralysis. 
  • Seizures.
  • Thickening of the skin on feet and nose. 
  • Vomiting. 
  • Watery discharge excreted from eyes and nose.

Diagnosing and treating CDV

There are a number of tests that can be performed to determine if your pet has CDV. The two most common types are biochemical tests and urine analysis. Biochemical tests will reveal if your dog has a reduced number of lymphocytes, and urine analysis will detect viral antigens. Together, they indicate that the body is fighting an infection and which infection it is likely fighting. If neurological damage is suspected, a CT scan or MRI might be warranted to determine whether any lesions have developed on the brain.

Once CDV has been diagnosed, treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms since there currently is not a cure for the disease. Most treatment plans differ because there are numerous strains of CDV, and every canine’s disease progresses differently. Treatment planning is conducted after a dog is evaluated, the strain they’ve contracted is verified, and their current status is determined. In managing your pet outside of the treatment provided by our veterinarian, it is important to monitor your dog for symptoms of dehydration or pneumonia: 

  • Coughing. 
  • Depression. 
  • Dry mouth. 
  • Lethargy. 
  • Thick mucousy nasal discharge.

It is entirely possible to recover from Canine Distemper Disease. Recovery is usually dependent upon the strength of the dog’s immune system and the strain of distemper they have contracted. It can take up to 2 months to fully recover. How quickly you respond to potential CDV symptoms also impacts your pet’s chances at survival. Studies show that canines vaccinated as many as 4 days after contracting the disease still receive immunity and can fully recover. We highly recommend seeking immediate veterinary attention after suspecting that your pet has come into contact with the disease.

If you have any questions about Canine Distemper or think your pet may have come into contact with the disease, please contact our office.