How to prevent and treat distemper

Prevention is the only real cure for distemper, a highly contagious canine disease. Once weaned, a puppy quickly loses the protection of its mother’s immunity, and should be vaccinated against distemper and other major dog diseases. The initial series of shots should be followed by annual boosters.

An unvaccinated dog can contract distemper from the air or by direct or indirect contact with an infected dog. Humans can’t catch it, but they can carry the virus on their hands or clothes. Symptoms are loss of appetite, lassitude, runny eyes or nose, a cough, diarrhea, fever, twitching, jaw chomping, and convulsions.

Distemper is quickly fatal in many young puppies and may leave older dogs with severe muscle twitches, epilepsy, or temporary or permanent paralysis. Prompt treatment is crucial to survival. At the first signs of the disease, call your veterinarian.