Why Canines Have Distemper? 6 Causes and Solutions:

Are you wondering Why Canines Have Distemper”? Canine distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that affects dogs worldwide. It is caused by the canine distemper virus (CDV), which primarily targets the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of infected dogs. This article aims to explore the causes of canine distemper and provide detailed solutions for managing and preventing this devastating disease.

Why Canines Have Distemper? Understanding Canine Distemper

The Nature of Canine Distemper

Why Canines Have Distemper? Canine distemper is a viral disease that primarily affects dogs but can also infect other animals, such as raccoons, foxes, and ferrets. The canine distemper virus (CDV) belongs to the Morbillivirus family and spreads easily among susceptible animals.

Transmission and Spread of Canine Distemper

Canine distemper spreads through direct contact with respiratory secretions or other bodily fluids from infected animals. It can also be transmitted by shared food and water bowls, contaminated objects, or airborne droplets. The virus can survive in the environment for a significant period, making it highly contagious.

Causes of Canine Distemper

Viral Infection: Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)

Why Canines Have Distemper? The primary cause of canine distemper is the infection with the canine distemper virus (CDV). This highly contagious virus targets the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of infected animals. Once a dog becomes infected, the virus replicates rapidly, leading to widespread systemic effects.

Lack of Vaccination and Immunity

Why Canines Have Distemper? One of the main causes of canine distemper is the lack of proper vaccination and immunity. Vaccination plays a crucial role in preventing distemper, and dogs should receive the initial vaccine series followed by booster shots. Without adequate vaccination, dogs remain susceptible to the virus.

Contact with Infected Animals

Close contact with infected animals significantly increases the risk of contracting distemper. Dogs that come into contact with infected saliva, urine, feces, or respiratory secretions are at high risk. This includes interactions with stray or abandoned dogs, as well as animals in shelters, kennels, or other communal environments.

Environmental Contamination

The canine distemper virus can persist in the environment for an extended period, making contamination another cause of the disease. Dogs that come into contact with contaminated objects, surfaces, or environments have an increased likelihood of acquiring the virus. This highlights the importance of maintaining cleanliness and hygiene.

Stress and Weakened Immune System

Why Canines Have Distemper? Stress and a weakened immune system can make dogs more susceptible to contracting distemper. Factors such as overcrowding, poor nutrition, underlying health conditions, or recent illnesses can compromise a dog’s immune response, making them more prone to infections.

Age and Breed Susceptibility

Certain age groups and breeds are more susceptible to canine distemper. Puppies under the age of four months, as well as older unvaccinated dogs, are particularly vulnerable. Additionally, certain breeds, such as Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and English Springer Spaniels, may have a higher genetic predisposition to the disease.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Common Symptoms of Canine Distemper

Canine distemper manifests with a range of symptoms that vary in severity. Common signs include fever, coughing, nasal discharge, eye discharge, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory distress, neurological symptoms, and skin inflammation. The combination and severity of symptoms can differ in each case.

Diagnostic Tests for Canine Distemper

To accurately diagnose canine distemper, veterinarians perform various tests. These include physical examinations, blood tests to detect the presence of antibodies, and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests to identify the genetic material of the virus. Clinical signs and test results contribute to a definitive diagnosis.

Managing and Treating Canine Distemper

Veterinary Care and Supportive Treatment

There is no specific cure for canine distemper, so treatment primarily focuses on supportive care to alleviate symptoms and strengthen the dog’s immune system. Veterinary care plays a crucial role in managing the disease. Veterinarians may prescribe medications to control fever, alleviate respiratory distress, and manage secondary infections.

Medications for Symptom Relief

Symptomatic treatment involves the use of medications to provide relief from specific symptoms. These may include antipyretics to reduce fever, cough suppressants to alleviate coughing, and antibiotics to treat or prevent secondary bacterial infections. However, treatment plans may vary based on the individual dog’s condition.

Fluid Therapy and Nutritional Support

Proper hydration and adequate nutrition are essential for dogs with distemper. Intravenous fluid therapy may be necessary to maintain hydration, especially if the dog is experiencing vomiting or diarrhea. Nutritional support in the form of easily digestible food or specialized diets can help maintain strength and support the immune system.

Isolation and Quarantine

Infected dogs should be isolated to prevent the spread of distemper to other animals. Quarantine measures are crucial to reduce the risk of transmission. Isolation minimizes direct contact and the sharing of common areas, food, and water bowls. It is vital to follow quarantine guidelines to prevent further outbreaks.

Why Canines Have Distemper?

Preventing Canine Distemper


Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent canine distemper. Regular vaccination is essential to protect dogs from the disease. Puppies should receive an initial series of vaccinations, typically starting at six to eight weeks of age, followed by booster shots at regular intervals. Adult dogs should also receive regular vaccinations to maintain their immunity.

Early Vaccination and Booster Shots

Early vaccination is crucial in preventing canine distemper. Puppies should receive their first distemper vaccination as recommended by their veterinarian. Booster shots are necessary to ensure continued protection, as immunity may wane over time. Following the recommended vaccination schedule is vital to provide optimal protection against the virus.

Avoiding Contact with Infected Animals

To reduce the risk of canine distemper, it is important to avoid contact with infected animals. This includes stray or abandoned dogs with unknown vaccination history. When encountering unfamiliar dogs, especially in communal environments such as parks or shelters, it is advisable to maintain a safe distance and prevent direct contact.

Maintaining a Clean and Sanitary Environment

Maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in the dog’s environment can help prevent the spread of distemper. Regularly clean and disinfect food and water bowls, bedding, toys, and other items that come into contact with the dog. Use appropriate disinfectants known to be effective against the canine distemper virus.


Why Canines Have Distemper? Canine distemper is a serious viral disease that poses a significant threat to dogs. Understanding the causes and implementing appropriate preventive measures is crucial in protecting dogs from this highly contagious illness. Vaccination, avoiding contact with infected animals, and maintaining a clean environment are essential steps in preventing the spread of distemper and safeguarding the health and well-being of our beloved canine companions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is canine distemper only contagious to dogs?

Yes, canine distemper primarily affects dogs, but it can also infect other animals such as raccoons, foxes, and ferrets.

Can canine distemper be transmitted to humans?

No, canine distemper cannot be transmitted to humans. It is a disease-specific to canines and does not pose a risk to human health.

Can all dogs recover from canine distemper?

Unfortunately, not all dogs infected with distemper will recover. The severity of the disease, the dog’s immune response, and the availability of supportive care play significant roles in determining the outcome.

How often should dogs be vaccinated against distemper?

Dogs should receive an initial series of distemper vaccinations starting at six to eight weeks of age, followed by booster shots at regular intervals. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate vaccination schedule for your dog.

Are there any long-term effects of canine distemper?

Some dogs may experience long-term effects from distemper, such as neurological issues or respiratory problems. However, the extent of these effects can vary, and early detection, appropriate treatment, and supportive care can help minimize long-term complications.

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