canine parvo and distemperIt stinks to have a sick dog. It stinks even more when your dog becomes ill with something that was preventable. Thanks to modern veterinary medicine, many serious diseases that were once a death sentence to infected dogs are now almost totally avoidable. Canine parvo and distemper virus are both diagnoses which we are happy to say we don’t have to make very often these days.

Learn what you need to know to keep it that way.

Virus Pathology 101

Canine parvo and distemper are both viral diseases that can affect our doggy family members. While they share a viral cause, and immunity is often administered in the same vaccine, they are very different diseases.

Parvovirus primer—Parvovirus is caused by a bug that infects the lining of the digestive tract as well as the bone marrow. This hardy virus can live in the environment for a long time and is spread through infected feces. Dogs that are infected have severe and often bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

Distemper details—Canine distemper is caused by a virus related to the human measles virus. It does not live long outside of the body and is contracted when a dog comes into direct contact with another pet’s infectious respiratory secretions. Symptoms ensue approximately seven days after exposure and typically start as ocular and nasal discharge, a short fever, coughing, and even pneumonia.

Sometimes vomiting and diarrhea may also occur. The virus then often stays, hiding in the skin or nervous system. This can result in a relapse in disease weeks to months after the initial infection. This time, symptoms can include changes to the paw pads or nose, tremors, or seizures.

What these diseases do share is the fact that both are quite serious and potentially deadly. Affected animals often require emergency intensive care, and even with aggressive treatment, may not survive.

A Dog Owner’s Guide to Canine Parvo and Distemper

Canine distemper and parvovirus are understandably scary. So what is a dog owner to do? Thankfully, with a little effort, chances are slim that you will ever have to deal with these diseases in your pet. In order to prevent infection, be sure to:

  • Use good sanitation, cleaning up after your pet and always washing your hands after contact with strange or sick animals.
  • Keep your pet’s vaccinations up-to-date (the distemper vaccine actually provides immunity against parvovirus and several other viral diseases as well).
  • Complete vaccine boosters as instructed. If you adopt your puppy before 16 weeks of age, he or she is not fully vaccinated!
  • Do not take pets that have not completed their vaccine series into environments where exposure is more likely. This includes pet stores, dog parks, and pet-dense walking destinations.

Thankfully, when properly administered, vaccines for canine parvo and distemper are very effective. If you aren’t sure if your pet is fully vaccinated, or if you think that he or she may have been exposed, please give us a call right away. Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital thinks it is important to keep all of our pet patients healthy and happy.