Canine Distemper, a Disease Preventable by Vaccination

Canine Distemper, a Disease Preventable by Vaccination

By Megan Gabel


Before getting into this topic it would be great if you, your friends, and family could help the SPA take full advantage of the matching offer for donations to our Pet Food Money Bank! All donations to that fundraiser through June 30, 2021, will be matched by anonymous donors up to a total of US$2,000! All money raised will be applied to the annual cost of feeding our cats and dogs (about 100 in all). For details, please see and click the “donate” button on any page. 


Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) is a highly contagious disease. In recent weeks we have noticed a significant increase of dogs infected with CDV coming into the SPA clinic. It is spread through direct contact (including sharing an infected dog’s food or water bowl) and air exposure (that is a cough, sneeze, or bark). Females can spread the virus through the placenta to her puppies. CDV infects dogs and other animals. A multi-systemic disease, it can cause respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurological problems. It attacks and weakens the immune system which lowers the dog’s resistance and ability to fight off other infections. The survival rate and length of infection depend upon the strain of the virus and the strength of the dog’s immune system. Too many times, the disease can be fatal.


What dogs are at risk?

  • Young dogs (2-6 months of age) and unvaccinated puppies older than 6 weeks of age.
  • Unvaccinated dogs of any age or breed.


Some of the common clinical signs of distemper include:

  • Watery to pus-like discharge from eyes and nose.
  • Fever of 103⁰ F to 105⁰ F (39.5⁰ C to 41⁰ C).
  • Listlessness or lethargy.
  • Loss of appetite and interest in drinking.
  • Dry cough and then moist ‘wet’ cough. 
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea.
  • Possible hyperkeratosis (thickening of the skin) of the paw pads and nose. 
  • In later stages, neurological signs include seizures, tremors, head tilt, partial or full paralysis, nystagmus (repetitive eye movements), and myoclonus (irregular involuntary contraction of a muscle).


Distemper is preventable by vaccinating your dog. A series of vaccinations is administered to puppies to increase the likelihood of building immunity. It is important to keep distemper vaccinations up-to-date throughout your dog’s life and avoid any gaps in vaccinations.


Distemper can be diagnosed by your veterinarian through assessment of clinical symptoms and laboratory testing. There is no specific treatment for distemper. Once diagnosed, treatment typically consist of supportive care. 


Vaccinations of all SPA dogs are current and include canine distemper protection. So if you adopt Georgina or Pammy or any of our dogs you can rest assured that they have been vaccinated. We urge you to make an appointment with our veterinarian, Dr. Omar Córdova, for guidance concerning your dog’s vaccination schedule. Located at Los Pinos 7, the SPA’s clinic is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9am-3pm and Tuesday and Saturday from 9am-4pm. Please call 415 152 6124 for an appointment.