Canine distemper is a highly contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and, often, the nervous system of puppies and dogs as well as wildlife populations such as raccoons, skunks and foxes. Puppies and dogs usually become infected though airborne exposure to the virus and contact with wildlife infected with the disease.
"Having your puppy or dog properly vaccinated and avoiding contact with infected animals is essential to preventing the spread of canine distemper," said Animal Services Manager Aaron Vannoy. "There are no drugs available to kill the canine distemper virus so vaccinating your pet against the disease is crucial."
The first signs of canine distemper may appear as eye discharge and later fever, coughing, lethargy, reduced appetite, vomiting or diarrhea. In later stages, the virus may attack the nervous system including seizures, twitching or partial or complete paralysis. Distemper results in permanent damage to a dog's nervous system and is often fatal. Dogs and puppies showing any sign of canine distemper should be taken to a veterinarian for an examination and diagnosis.
For more information about canine distemper, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association website: www.avma.org.