In the early stages of distemper, a high fever and nasal and eye discharge occur, along with vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. Once this early stage has passed, the dog may seem to be getting better. The second stage commences two to three weeks after the onset and is indicated by slobbering, head shaking and an uncontrollable chewing motion. Seizures and accompanying pain are likely at this stage.
Distemper is a virus that is spread by bodily secretions. It can be spread through the air, which is how most dogs are infected. It is the leading cause of death by disease in dogs, with unvaccinated puppies between the ages of 6 and 12 months at most risk. Not all dogs succumb to the disease since overall health plays a big factor in the severity of the symptoms.
A veterinarian treats distemper by treating the symptoms. Antibiotics are given to fight infection, while dehydration is treated by giving intravenous fluids. Anticonvulsants are used to control seizures.
Puppies should be vaccinated for distemper by the age of 8 weeks. To provide antibodies in their milk for the future puppies, females should get a booster shot two to four weeks before breeding. Vaccination is highly effective at preventing the disease.