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Definition of Canine Distemper
Canine distemper is a viral disease that affects animals in the families Canidae, Mustelidae, Mephitidae, Hyaenidae, Ailuridae, Procyonidae, Pinnipedia, some Viverridae and Felidae (though not domestic cats; feline distemper or panleukopenia is a different virus exclusive to cats). It is most commonly associated with domestic animals such as dogs and ferrets, although it can infect wild animals as well. It is a single-stranded RNA virus of the family paramyxovirus, and thus a close relative of measles and rinderpest.
Symptoms of Canine Distemper
What canine distemper is in terms of symptoms maybe confused with other diseases due to its universal and wide range clinical manifestations. Common symptoms are either gastrointestinal (such as vomiting, decrease in appetite, and diarrhea) or respiratory in nature (difficulty in breathing). Transient fever or dramatic and sporadic increases in body temperature is a telltale sign of the infection. Behavioral changes include lethargy, weakness, and depression. Neurological signs may also be seen such as muscle twitching especially near the mouth and legs. Seizures and paralysis may occur in severe cases. A more or less unique skin sign in dogs with canine distemper is the hardening of footpads and nose pad most evident in older dogs. Sudden death is not uncommon with this disease.
Causes of Canine Distemper
Consult with your doctor.
Diagnosis of Canine Distemper
Aside from signs and symptoms, laboratory diagnostic examinations such as blood tests are recommended to detect and confirm the disease and its severity. Actual viral isolation and identification is also possible depending on the capacity of a laboratory.
Treatment of Canine Distemper
Similar with other viral diseases there is no direct treatment for canine distemper. Moreover, treatment becomes irrelevant provided that preventive measures are performed. Early detection of the disease is also important to increase the chances of recovery. Once a dog has been infected, a dog owner can only offer supportive treatment and hope for the best. Antibiotic therapy may also be prescribed to lessen any detrimental effects of opportunistic secondary bacterial infections. Recovery may be absolute. However, in most cases, despite being provided with the utmost care, lingering debilitating signs do persist throughout the animal’s life such as involuntary muscle twitching.
Prognosis of Canine Distemper
Consult with your doctor.
Prevention of Canine Distemper
There exist a number of vaccines against canine distemper for dogs (ATCvet code: QI07AD05 and combinations) and domestic ferrets (QI20DD01), which in many jurisdictions are mandatory for pets. The type of vaccine should be approved for the type of animal being inoculated, or else the animal could actually contract the disease from the vaccine. A dog who has eaten meat infected with rinderpest can also sometimes receive temporary immunity. Infected animals should be quarantined from other dogs for several months due to the length of time the animal may shed the virus. The virus is destroyed in the environment by routine cleaning with disinfectants, detergents, or drying. It does not survive in the environment for more than a few hours at room temperature (20–25 °C), but can survive for a few weeks in shady environments at temperatures slightly above freezing. It, along with other labile viruses, can also persist longer in serum and tissue debris.
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