An ounce of prevention is worth a lifetime with a healthy dog. By taking action to prevent canine distemper in your fuzzball, you prevent the discomfort and possible fatal nature of the disease.
What is it?
Canine distemper is a virus that can spread through your dog quickly and do a significant amount of damage if it goes unchecked for a period of time. At one time, canine distemper was the leading cause of death in unvaccinated dogs, but advances in technology have changed much of this. CDV is a fairly common virus in wildlife, not only confined to dogs. Many different species of wildlife can contract it and pass it along to your dog if they come in contact. Since the discovery of the vaccination outbreaks have greatly declined in household pets and only occur sporadically. Even so, if they don’t have the vaccination they are still at risk.
How do I Prevent it?
Generally, the best prevention for canine distemper is a vaccination. These vaccinations can even be administered up to 4 days after the virus onset and still be effective. In order to ensure year-round protection, a dog should be vaccinated each year.
There are two commonly used vaccines for this virus. The first, known as canine tissue culture-adapted vaccines, are extremely effective, having an almost 100% prevention rate. The drawback is that dogs that have compromised immune systems should not take this vaccine. The second type, chick embryo adapted-vaccines, are much safer than the former but are less effective, having an 80% prevention rate.
If a mother has been vaccinated, any puppies that are born should have the CDV (canine distemper virus) anti-bodies in their systems already. These anti-bodies do not stay in the body indefinitely and after 6-12 weeks, they will all but disappear. For this reason, puppies should be vaccinated around this time to ensure they are safe from the virus. Two to three vaccinations are common. If you then vaccinate your puppy every year afterwards, they stand a good chance of fighting off the disease should they contract it.
Infection from Other Dogs
Dogs rarely play with one another at a distance, and if they do it’s because they have no choice. Interaction with dogs that have canine distemper can pass it to one another. Any dog that is suspected of having distemper should be kept away from health dogs, even if those dogs have been administered a vaccination. It just makes sense to keep your paws on the side of caution.
If an infected dog has entered your home, or is a dog that resides in your home, a good cleaning with bleach solution will disinfect the area. Keep in mind, people often over estimate the amount of bleach they need in a solution. More doesn’t mean more effective. You only need a capful or so in a bucket for the bleach to have cleaning power.
A dog with a strong immune system is going to have a much greater chance at fighting off any unwanted invader than one with a weak one. Keeping a dog’s immune system at its peak means giving them a healthy diet full of all the vitamins and nutrients they require, plenty of exercise and the proper amount of rest. Since you have little control over whether or not they sleep, if you exercise them enough and give them a good diet, they should have a healthy sleep cycle.
Be careful around puppies or elderly dogs, since they will have a higher likelihood of contracting this virus. A young dog’s immune system is still forming, and an older dog’s immune system might be starting to fail.
As a final note, canine distemper virus can be passed on to humans, but it’s not all that common. Make sure you take care when you are interacting with your dog, but if you’ve had the measles vaccination, you will be protected from CDV.
Dogs don’t think about this stuff, which is why you have to make the best decision for them. They are relying on your expertise and alpha-dog-like guidance to show them the best possible route. In return, their unconditional love is yours, and I can’t think of a better trade than that.