What is Distemper?

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What is Distemper?

Distemper is a deadly disease usually affecting dogs and cats.  Though both types are commonly confused as the same, Canine Distemper in dogs and Feline Distemper in cats are caused by different viruses.

For Canine Distemper, the virus involved is paramyxovirus.  This type of virus is mostly prevalent during spring and autumn months.  Primarily spread through respiratory discharges in the air, it can also be acquired through bodily secretions.  Symptoms include pus from the dog’s eyes and nose, dry mouth, red eyes, fever, and loss of appetite.  As the symptoms progress over time, dogs will contract pneumonia which results to coughing and labored breathing.  In severe instances, the disease will affect the brain causing some twitching movements in the dog’s jaw, head, or body.  Though some dogs may not die from the disease, many of them will have permanent damage to their bodies, especially if the brain is affected. It is not uncommon that dogs become paralyzed because of this disease.

Feline Distemper meanwhile is caused by parvovirus, which is highly contagious and can survive in the environment for long periods.  Transmission may be through other cats or humans via food and water bowls, litter pans, beddings and rugs, and even on common areas for grooming animals.  Insects like fleas and flies can also transmit the disease.  Symptoms typically show up 10 days after infection and include diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and depression.  Cats that have distemper usually are lethargic and may not have the energy to groom or lick their coats.

Distemper can also affect other animals like raccoons, skunks, wolves, and horses.  Though the disease is highly contagious and lethal, it is not communicable to humans.  Treatment for distemper only involves supportive care and symptoms are treated as they appear.  Much emphasis is given on vaccination for domestic animals to help reduce mortality rates.

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