Canine Distemper


Canine Distemper (aka Hard Pad Disease) is a devastating virus. Puppies less than four months of age are most susceptible, but an adult dog can also be at risk.

The good news is you can protect your pet from getting Distemper by vaccinating appropriately.

What is Canine Distemper?

Canine Distemper is a highly contagious disease that can be fatal. Distemper affects multiple organ systems. This typically includes; the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, central nervous system and conjunctiva. 

How do dog’s contract Distemper?

  • Direct contact with an infected animal
  • Inanimate objects that contain the virus
  • Aerosol-like manor
  • Through the placenta

Thankfully, Distemper does not last long in the environment and most cleaners will kill the virus. 

The bad news is dogs are not the only animals that are susceptible to Distemper. They can get it from raccoons, coyotes, foxes and more. So if your dog is not vaccinated and your local wildlife has an outbreak, your dog is at risk. 

What are the clinical signs of Distemper?

  • Vomiting/Diarrhea
  • Eye discharge
  • Inappetance
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy 
  • Fever
  • Neurologic signs: tremors, seizures, stumbling, etc.
  • Death 
  • Dogs can also develop hyperkeratosis: an overgrowth of the footpads, giving Distemper its nickname
  • Tooth abnormalities if the animal recovers.

How does a veterinarian diagnose Distemper?

The issue with Distemper is the symptoms can mimic other diseases. Your veterinarian can perform a few tests to help confirm the disease. They may want to take a sample with a swab from your dog’s eyes or nose, blood or even collect a urine sample. 

Unfortunately, the prognosis for Distemper is poor.

How is Canine Distemper treated?

There is no cure for Canine Distemper. Veterinarians can give supportive care to the patient to prevent dehydration and secondary infections. 

How you can protect your dog!


Some people mistake the Distemper vaccination to help with their dog’s temperament. In fact, The Distemper vaccination has nothing to do with the animal’s temperament but has everything to do with the Canine Distemper Virus.

Instead of vaccinating your own dog, a veterinarian should be administering all vaccines. Veterinarians ensure that the vaccination is properly stored, giving at the correct intervals and the correct dosage. 

Remember adult dogs are not immune to getting Distemper. Depending on the area you live in and your dog’s lifestyle your veterinarian may recommend vaccinating every year or every 3 years.

Keep your dog away!

Last but not least, keep your puppy that is not vaccinated away from high traffic dog areas. This includes the dog park, daycare, or areas in your neighborhood that many dogs hang out by.

Distemper can be a devastating virus. Vaccination is key to help protect your pet. Take care of your pet and vaccinate them appropriately.


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