Canine Distemper (also known as Hard Pad Disease) is a disease that young dogs and puppies are prone to. Canine Distemper is often mistaken at first for Canine Parvo Virus as it presents similar symptoms. This disease is second in severity only to the Canine Parvo Virus and it is highly contagious, potentially fatal, and not easily treated.
The basic transmission of the Distemper Virus is spread through secretions of bodily fluids, such as urine, blood, feces and airborne transmissions (such as coughing and sneezing by infected animals). The dog contracting the virus is infected generally though the nose or mouth, where these infected cells can begin to reproduce. The symptoms for Canine Distemper include gooey eyes and nasal discharge, fever, anorexia, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures. Side effects from this virus also can include thickening of the skin over the pads, which causes them to become hard.
The major concern with this virus is the development of pneumonia, as well as a secondary bacterial infection. This secondary bacterial infection would be caused by the comprising of the digestive tract. After the virus has infected the respiratory and digestive tract it then moves to the central nervous system, where it can lead to tremors, imbalance, weak limbs and eventually seizures.
There is currently no cure for this virus, although with supportive treatment that would include intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and air-way dilators which can help to clear the airway as well as “coupage” (which is the act of gently patting your hand over the chest of the patient to help knock mucus loose from the lungs), the patient can make a full recovery. During this time it is increasingly important for the veterinarian or the veterinary assistant to monitor the patient and provide the specified treatment. Canine Distemper can be avoided if dogs are properly vaccinated against this virus at an early age. Your veterinarian should also be able to advise you on the proper vaccination time line for a new household puppy.