Canine distemper is a very serious viral disease that affects domestic animals such as dogs, It is a single-stranded RNA virus of the family paramyxovirus, and thus a close relative of measles and rinderpest.Despite extensive vaccination in many regions, it remains a major disease of dogs.
Although very similar to the measles virus, CDV seems to have appeared more recently, with the first case described in 1905 by French veterinarian Henri Carré. It was first thought to be related to the Plague and Typhus and resulted from several species of bacteria. It now affects all populations of domestic dog and some populations of wildlife. A vaccine was developed in 1950, yet due to limited use the virus remains prevalent in many populations. The domestic dog has largely been responsible for introducing canine distemper to previously unexposed wildlife and now causes a serious conservation threat to many species of carnivores and some species of marsupials. The virus contributed to the near-extinction of the black-footed ferret. It also may have played a considerable role in the extinction of the Tasmanian tiger and recurrently causes mortality among African wild dogs. In 1991, the lion population in Serengeti, Tanzania experienced a 20% decline as a result of the disease. The disease has also mutated to form phocid distemper virus, which affects seals.
Puppies from three to six months old are particularly susceptible.
The mortality rate of the virus largely depends on the immune status of the infected dogs. Puppies experience the highest mortality rate where complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis are more common.
The virus first appears in bronchial lymph nodes and tonsils two days after exposure. The virus then enters the blood stream on the second or third day. In older dogs that do develop distemper encephalomyetilis, vestibular disease may present. A first round of acute fever tends to begin around 3 to 8 days after infection which is often accompanied by a low white blood cell count, especially of lymphocytes as well as low platelet count. These signs may or may not be accompanied by anorexia, a runny nose, and discharge from the eye. This first round of fever typically recedes rapidly within 96 hours and then a second round of fever begins around the 11th or 12th day and lasts at least a week. Gastrointestinal and respiratory problems tend to follow which may become complicated with secondary bacterial infections.A thickening of the footpads sometimes develops and vesicularpustular lesions on the abdomen usually develop. Neurological symptoms typically are found in the animals with thickened footpads from the virus. About half of sufferers experience meningoencephalitis.
Commonly observed signs are a runny nose, vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration, excessive salivation, coughing and/or labored breathing, loss of appetite, and weight loss. When and if the neurological symptoms develop, urination and defecation may become involuntary.
The symptoms within the central nervous system include a localized involuntary twitching of muscles or groups of muscles, seizures often distinguished by salivation and jaw movements commonly described as “chewing gum fits,” or more appropriately as "distemper myoclonus." As the condition progresses, the seizures worsen and advance to grand mal convulsions, followed by death of the animal. The animal may also show signs of sensitivity to light, incoordination, circling, increased sensitivity to sensory stimuli such as pain or touch, and deterioration of motor capabilities. Less commonly it may lead to blindness and paralysis.
The above symptoms, especially fever, respiratory signs, neurological signs, and thickened footpads found in unvaccinated dogs strongly indicate canine distemper.
Really its a very dangerous disease. We lost little Hello ( a female puppy of about 5 months old) last year who was sufferring from distemper. Actually earlier we didn't know about this disease, little Hello had high fever, doctor's of Friendicos ( An NGO for animal care) diagnosed as a simple fever. After 5-6 days fever had gone, but again cameback after one week and that time alongwith fits. we rushed to Friendicos, they declared it was a case of distemper and suggested to give her a mercy death. But we tried our level best, we brought her back, quarantined her at a separate place, rushed to a homeopathy doctor (famous for distemper in the country) cameback with medicines and lots of hope. Little Hello also tried her best to survive, she was improving, we were feeling happy but suddenly after 2 days (7th June'2009, Sunday) she took her last breathe, it was a deep breath... and she left us. We are still missing you little Hello. May God bless her.
In India there is no treatment for infected animals. Diagnosis is also very difficult, can be diagnosed until the disease reaches the nervous stage.
My dear friends, if you know about the treatment of this deadly disease please let us know.
(Informations taken from wikipedia)