That dreaded disease called distemper
One fatal illness that has spread among dogs in Metro Manila is called distemper.
Rescuers wait anxiously for the distemper test result whenever a rescued dog is brought to the clinic for several reasons:
1. It is a fatal disease. Your dog can die if this is not detected early and not managed soon enough by a good, responsible vet.
2. THERE IS NO KNOWN CURE, ONLY SUPPORTIVE AND SYMPTOMATIC CARE CAN BE GIVEN.
3. It can leave your dog with a neurological problem for life like shaking or trembling. This happens when the dog survives but the disease was either detected at an advanced stage or not managed early.
4. It is expensive to provide supportive care. (Prevention, on the other hand, is not expensive.)
5. The dog has to be isolated for a minimum of three months and a maximum of six months because it is highly contagious.
WebMD describes distemper as “a virus that affects a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous system, as well as the conjunctival membranes of the eye.”
HOW YOUR DOG CAN BE INFECTED
1. It is airborne, thus, it can be transmitted by both pets and humans. Sneezing and coughing by infected animals are ways the virus can be passed on.
2. A dog can be infected through direct contact with fresh urine, blood, or saliva. Do not allow sharing of food and water bowls. Also, disinfect beddings, towels and other items used by an infected dog.
You can prevent this disease from infecting your dog by:
1. Having your dog VACCINATED. During the first year, a series of shots will be given. Every year thereafter, a booster or one shot is given. A puppy has to be given the first shot when he is six to eight weeks old. Please keep the pup away from possible disease carriers until he has completed the series of vaccines at four or five months old. An older dog must also be vaccinated.
2. Keeping your dog’s immune system strong by giving good food and multivitamins, and keeping your place clean.
3. Immediately isolating infected animals.
4. Always cleaning and disinfecting your home.
The following are most susceptible to the distemper virus:
1. Young, unvaccinated puppies
2. Non-immunized older dogs
3. Newborn pups
WebMD warns: “Puppies younger than seven weeks, born to mothers who haven’t been vaccinated against the virus, are extremely susceptible. Once infected, puppies are severely weakened. Often, the virus travels to the brain, causing seizures shaking and trembling. A weakened immune system leaves an infected dog open to secondary infections like pneumonia.”
PLEASE BRING YOUR DOG TO THE VET IMMEDIATELY FOR A TEST when you observe these symptoms enumerated by PetMD:
During the initial stages:
1. High fever (≥103.5 ° F, or 39.7° C)
2. Reddened eyes
3. Watery discharge from the nose and eyes.
4. Lethargy and tiredness
5. The dog becomes anorexic
6. Persistent coughing and vomiting
In the advanced stage:
1. Fits, seizures, paralysis and attacks of hysteria when the virus hits the nervous system, affecting the brain and spinal cord.
2. Hard pad or when a certain strain of the virus causes the pad of the dog’s paw to thicken or grow bigger.
“In dogs or animals with weak immune systems, death may result two to five weeks after the initial infection,” PetMD warns.
Thus, the need for immediate and aggressive medical intervention.
There are three kinds of tests: antibody (blood sample); antigen fluid (nasal and eye discharge); and antigen blood (blood).
“Canine distemper tests do exist, but the results alone are not always reliable. Rather than just testing for the infection, your vet has to look at the whole picture, including a dog’s specific symptoms and health history. Positive results can help confirm an infection, but a dog can still be infected even if test results are negative,” WebMD says.
There is no known cure for distemper. The treatment plan provides supportive care and alleviates the symptoms, Dr. Cerdy Deloso says.
Dr. Deloso says they provide the following, among others:
1. Intravenous fluid to prevent dehydration and when the dog is not eating or has diarrhea.
2. Antibiotic to prevent secondary bacterial infection.
3. Meds to control convulsions and seizures.
4. Supplements like multivitamin and minerals to strengthen the immune system.
5. Mucolytic to help the dog breathe.
6. Medicine for fever.
7. An analgesic helps relieve body pains.
8. Immunoglobulins like Canglob.
9. The vet may opt for sears serum or other anti-viral drugs.
The vet will monitor your dog specifically for signs of pneumonia.
“A dog’s chances for surviving canine distemper will depend on the strain of the virus and the strength of the dog’s immune system,” PetMD says.
PLEASE CONSULT A VET FOR THE BEST TREATMENT PLAN FOR YOUR DOG. THE KIND OF MEDS, WHEN IT SHOULD BE GIVEN, AND THE DOSAGE WILL DEPEND ON THE STAGE OF ILLNESS, THE STRAIN, AND THE CONDITION OF THE DOG.
It adds: “Recovery is entirely possible, although seizures and other fatal disturbances may occur two to three months after recovery.”
A dog who has fully recovered from the virus do not spread the virus.
But why wait for the virus to hit your dog? Please, have your dog vaccinated now.