Distemper in dogsDogs also get sick. Just like us humans, you struggle with back pain, diabetes, canine joint disease and more. However, there are also some diseases that we humans are spared from, but which hit our four-legged friends even harder. However, dog owners often find it difficult to recognize these diseases and assign the symptoms to the corresponding clinical picture – although this is usually urgently necessary. A typical example is distemper: Almost everyone has heard of this often fatal animal disease, but very few people know more than the name. In many cases, early diagnosis can be life-saving.

Distemper – a dog disease

Distemper is one of a few diseases that actually only affects dogs and canids. In addition to dogs, wolves and foxes, their more extensive relatives such as martens, seals and small bears are also affected. Although cats can theoretically be infected, the infection in velvet paws is completely symptom-free. However, distemper is completely harmless to humans.

It is a viral disease caused by the canine distemper virus, which is related to the human measles virus. The virus is surprisingly resistant to external influences such as heat or cold, but it can be easily killed using common disinfectants.

The transmission of distemper usually takes place via droplet infection: All excretions of the animal, whether urine, feces or nasal secretions and the like, are highly infectious and can also be transmitted indirectly (i.e. via contact with contaminated blankets) due to the high resistance of the germs , brushes and the like) can be contagious. The disease usually occurs about 3-7 days after infection and can affect dogs of all ages. However, puppies between 2 and 6 months of age most often get distemper. How intense the disease becomes depends, among other things, on the general condition of the dog: fit, well-fed dogs can fight off the pathogens better than (for whatever reason) weakened animals. A stable immune system is also helpful here: With DOG FIT by PreThis® VITAL immun with colostrum you can support your dog’s natural defenses and reduce his susceptibility to infections, such as distemper.

Typical distemper symptoms and course of the disease

Distemper can affect different organ systems – which is why there is initially no clear course of the disease. But what can generally be said is that the first symptom is a high fever, often up to 41°C. The other symptoms depend on the organ system affected.

The gastrointestinal tract is most commonly affected. Here, the sick dog shows vomiting and diarrhea in addition to the fever. Alternatively or at the same time, the respiratory system can be affected. In this case, the common symptoms are shortness of breath, nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing and often conjunctivitis. Up to this point, the course is said to be “mild”; the dog’s organism may still be able to cope with the disease itself. However, if sufficient antibodies are not formed by this period, death can be expected without treatment, because the pathogens next attack the nervous system.

Once the nervous system is affected, the extent of the disease becomes clear: visual disturbances, muscle tremors, symptoms of paralysis and many other neurological damages can occur. The nose and toe balls often become calloused during this phase. Without medical help, the dog is now doomed to die, but even with medical support, survival is by no means certain. And even if healing is successful, the four-legged friend may suffer lifelong nerve or brain damage: the typical crooked head posture, chronic encephalitis or permanently trembling muscles are just a few examples of such consequences of the disease.

Therapy and treatment options

Because distemper is a serious, highly contagious and often fatal disease, medical treatment is urgently needed. As with all viral diseases, therapy is somewhat difficult because there are no direct antidotes, as is the case with bacterial diseases. Although an attempt is made to stimulate the immune system by injecting antibodies, the main aim is to alleviate the symptoms. In addition, there are a lot ofig antibiotics are prescribed to prevent bacterial diseases from further weakening the organism.

Ideally, a dog suffering from distemper can be cared for in a veterinary clinic: Not only can the risk of infection for other animals be kept low there, it is also possible to give the necessary infusions in many cases. However, care at home is also possible: Be sure to ensure adequate fluid intake (the responsible veterinarian can also administer infusions in an emergency) and meticulous hygiene to avoid infecting other animals.


Distemper is a serious disease that, once established, is difficult to treat. It is often primarily a matter of luck whether sick animals survive or not. That’s why it’s worth taking precautions for the well-being of the animal: The vaccine against distemper is relatively safe and can be given to puppies from the 8th week of life. A little prick against a potentially fatal disease.

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