Distemper in Dogs

Distemper in dogs have been mentioned in 1824

This scourge to the canine race, now so general and common, does not appear to have been known a century ago; and even yet, throughout the European continent, it is described rather as an occasional epidemic which visits the different countries every three or four years, than as a fixed complaint, like the measles or hooping cough in the human (In opposition to this late appearance of the distemper, it has been conjectured that it was not unknown to the antients, and was by them called the Angina, being one of three diseases to which dogs, according to them, were liable; Madness and Podagra forming the otber two. But an attentive examination of the symptoms, as detailed by Aristotle, Aelian, and such other antient authors as have left us their observations on the canine race, will clearly show that the distemper, as it is known among us, was unknown to them. Their angina appears to have been an accidental epidemic, which confined its attacks almost wholly to the throat, producing faucial imposthumes, like strangles in horses, or quinsy in the human; but the grand characteristic, of primary and continued discharge from the nasal mucous membranes, is wholly unnoticed. — See AElian de Nat. Animal, lib. iv, c. 40; Aristotle Hist. Animal, lib. viii, c. 22, &c. &c.)

Our continental neighbours appear to have transmitted it to England, where also it seems first to have appeared in the form of an epidemic, but now exists as a permanent disease, to which every individual of the canine race has a strong constitutional liability. That we imported it, is evident from the circumstance that the earliest notices we have of it in sporting works (Of late years, the prevalence of this complaint has engaged the attention of many distinguished characters. In every treatise of sporting, in some agricultural works, and in one or two veterinary publications, it has been treated of. A few eminent medical men have also noticed it; among whom Drs. Jenner and Darwin stand foremost. The former ever to be revered character, whose philanthropy and general worth have reared him an imperishable monument, has drawn a portrait of the disease in the first volume of the Medical and Chirurgiral Tracts, which is sufficiently perspicuous and characteristic for the general purposes of description, but infinitely too contracted to make it a practical reference in this eternally varying malady. Dr. Jenner was induced to turn his attention to the subject from an impression on his mind, that vaccination would prove a preventive to distemper as well as to human small-pox. Unfortunately both for the human and the brute, he was partially mistaken in the one, and there is too much reason to fear wholly so in the other. Vaccination, as far as my experience goes, neither exempts the canine race from the attack of distemper, nor does it appear at all to mitigate the severity of the complaint. I am aware that the point is yet at issue, and that the practice of vaccination is still continued among dogs; but I have seen such palpable and repeated instances of failure, when operated on in the most careful manner; and I have, in the alleged instances of its success, been enabled to trace the matter so clearly to the operation of accidental circumstances, or the report to exaggerated statements; that I have no hesitation in pronouncing it wholly inefficacious as regards dogs.

With Dr. Darwin the distemper is a debilitating catarrh, which is best treated by free access to the open air, which, as it passes over the ulcerated surfaces of the nasal membranes, will tend to heal them. Distempered dogs should also be allowed to drink water from a running stream, that the contagious mucus of the nostrils, having escaped one passage, may not again enter another, and thus re-poison the dog. Such is the theory and treatment of this disease, according to this fanciful author; and equally unsatisfactory-appear all the various descriptions and directions relative to it, scattered about in sporting and other works. Neither can it be otherwise, when in most instances the disease has been described from the appearances as they presented themselves in one kennel; often as it appeared in one litter; or even from a single individual) are subsequent to its announcement in the pages of similar continental publications-, and also from our having designated it by a translation of the popular term it was first known by in France, La Maladie. But although the distemper may be now considered as a constitutional disease, like measles or hooping-cough, it nevertheless still puts on, occasionally, not only its epidemial, but also an endemial appearance, and ravages the dogs of a particular district more than of others; and, now and then, when it attacks with epidemic fury and peculiarity the dogs of London or other large cities, it is scarcely observed among those in the country. In an epidemic form the disease presents many varieties. I have seen it accompanied with marked biliary affection in every dog attacked that season: many of the cases of that period had also a pustular eruption. I have seen it also make its appearance in a few cases, and during one particular season, by a phlegmonous tumour of some part of the body, but principally of the head. In the summer of 1805, many of the distempered subjects had a peculiar affection of the bowels, in addition to the other symptoms. It commenced suddenly, like spasmodic cholic, appeared to give great pain, but neither constipated nor relaxed the bowels. It usually continued acute two or three days, and then terminated fatally. In such cases as did recover, aetive purgatives of calomel and aloes appeared beneficial. It may be remarked, that, whenever distemper rages as an epidemic, it commonly assumes some characteristic type. One year shall be remarkable for the harassing and obstinate diarrheea that appears; another from the more than usual tendency to convulsive fits; while in a third, a malignant putrid type will sweep off many. I have likewise noticed, that convulsions are most prevalent in winter, and purging in summer. As a general rule, this, however, like others, is subject to variation.

The distemper has now become so naturalized among our dogs, that very few escape the disease altogether. A constitutional liability to it is inherent in every individual of the canine race (I am not aware whether the other members of the eanine genus, the wolf, fox, and jackal, are subject to the distemper: I believe no proof exists that either of them are so; and, as I should suppose the disease to be of factitious origin, so I would consider them as exempt), which predisposition is usually acted upon by some occasional cause. The predisposition itself, in some breeds, seems sufficient to produce it, and sueh have it frequently very soon after birth (This appears particularly in the diminutive breeds, as pugs, fancy spaniels, pigmy terriers, Italian greyhounds, and other varieties artificially reared and treated); but the predisposition is more frequently acted on by some occasional cause, of which there are many. Contagion may be regarded as the principal of these: few dogs who have not passed through the disease escape it when exposed to either the effluvia, or to the contact of the morbid secretions received on a mueous or an ulcerated surface; yet inoculation with distemper virus frequently fails to produce it, and the disposition to receive the contagion is, likewise, not always in equal force, but it appears stronger or weaker at various periods in the same animal, and is perhaps under the controul of the accidental changes in health, fulness of habit, &c. &c. Cold applied in any noxious manner to the system is a very common origin of the complaint; throwing into water, washing, and not afterwards drying the animal; unusual exposure during a night, &c, are frequent causes of distemper in young and tender dogs. I have seen it produced by violent haemorrhage, by a sudden change from a full to a low diet (I have constantly found that full feeding, so as to produce fatness, is the best preventive against a premature attack of the distemper, which is to be dreaded from the constitution not having gained strength sufficient to enable it to withstand the debilitating effects of the disease. In puppies that are fat and full fed, not only is the complaint protracted, but, when it does make its attack, such dogs always fare best under it), and, in fact, any great or sudden derangement in the system is sufficient to call the predisposition into action.

The usual period of its attack is that of puberty, or when the dog attains his full growth: in some it is protracted to two, three, or even many years old; and a very few escape it altogether. The having once passed through the disease is not a certain preventive to a future attack. It occasionally appears a second time; and an instance fell under my notice of a third recurrence, with the intervention of two years between each attack.

Dogs in confined situations certainly have the disease with greater severity than those in the country, nevertheless there is by no means that extreme disproportion in the severity which is observed in many other instances. Some breeds have it much worse than others; and while all the litters of one bitch will be found to possess it with constant and fatal severity, those of another will as usually pass through it favourably. Particular varieties have it also with different degrees of malignity. To greyhounds and pugs it is peculiarly fatal: terriers have it worse than spaniels; and setters, 1 think, fare worse under it than pointers. It may likewise be regarded as a general rule, that the younger the dog the greater will be the severity of the disease: very young dogs seldom live with it.

The distemper commences its attack in various ways; its symptoms throughout are marked with more variety than appears in any other complaint; and, whether we consider its first attack, its progress, duration, or termination, all are alike variable. Some symptoms are, however, common to most cases, and some appearances are usually found in all. Of these I will first endeavour, for the sake of perspicuity, to give an outline; and afterwards notice the numerous variations that occur.

Among the early symptoms of distemper, a short, dry, husky cough may be reckoned as one of the most common. In some cases, this cough is never severe throughout the complaint; in others, it increases until it becomes constant and distressing-, producing-, by its irritation of the fauces, ineffectual efforts to vomit; but a little frothy mucus only is produced by the joint act of the stomach and lungs. A. few escape with little or no cough at all. A watery secretion moistens the eyes and nose in the early stages of almost every distempered case. Sometimes, this appearance precedes the cough; at others, it succeeds it; and sometimes they appear together. This flow from the eyes and nose (which is nothing more than the natural mucus of the parts thinned and increased by inflammation) in a little time takes on another appearance, and. as partial or total ulceration follows, so the secretion takes on a thickened mucous or purulent form, and pus, or matter, flows from the eyes and nose, and, now and then, from the ears also. When the secretion has become thick and pus-like, the dog-, when first seen in the morning-, presents himself with his eyes and nose stopped or glued up with the viscid matter which exuded during the night. During the day, the irritation produces frequent sneezing, and a disposition to rub the nose and eyes violently to relieve them. In many cases, a lessened appetite, dulness, and emaciation, precede all other appearances; and when they are not the precursors to the complaint, they are certain to follow in the train. As a necessary consequence of the fever attendant on the disease, a quickened pulse, hurried respiration, shivering, disinclination to exercise, impatience of cold, and anxiety for warmth, are also present in every well marked case. Diarrhoea, or looseness’s now and then a very early symptom also; in others, it does not appear so early; but, in all, it is too apt to make its appearance at some period of the complaint. A general prostration of strength marks every bad case of distemper: in some it comes on very early, in others it is more protracted; but in all it proves, sooner or later, a certain accompaniment to the complaint. It is not uncommon, whether the general weakness is trifling or considerable, for a peculiar paralytic debility to appear also, which is more frequently confined to the loins and hinder extremities; in which cases, although the fore parts may remain tolerably strong, the hinder ones will appear very and sometimes totally paralyzed. Now and then this paralytic tendency extends to all the limbs, and to the head also, when the animal is seen to reel as though drunk, or to become affected with spasmodic twitchings.

From this summary of symptomatic appearances, it may be fair to characterise the distemper as a specific contagious catarrh, that commences its attack on the mucous membranes of the head, on those of the bronchial passages, or on the membranes of both at the same time; and, according as the one or the other, or both, are the immediate and primary subjects of attack, so do the symptoms vary. When the membranes of the head, particularly those of the eyes and nose; are the parts first attacked and principally affected, the animal exhibits all the symptoms common with a human person labouring under what is called a cold in the head; as weight and heat in the forehead, sneezing-, moisture from the eyes and nose, first thin and watery, then thicker and mattery, or pus-like; with shivering, listlessnes, lessened appetite, and impatience of light often. But when the bronchial passages are the first objects of attack (I think I have observed, that when pneumonic symptoms are the first marks of the complaint, or, in other words, when cough, wasting of flesh, dulness, and loss of appetite, precede the running from the nose and eyes, the case may be commonly traced to a cold taken. When the disease is derived from another dog, hay contagion or infection, the eyes and nose usually evince a primary affection of the head more than of the chest. I, however, by no means consider this as a fixed rule), a short dry cough usually precedes these symptoms; and if the lungs themselves become affected with a symptomatic peripneumony, a quickened respiration is observed, with an increased severity of the other symptoms; but, as the specific seat of the disease is in the pituitary or nasal membrane, so it is seldom that the foregoing symptoms are wanting, for, if they do not appear before the cough, they very soon follow. In the early stage above described, the disease is sometimes successfully combated by easy methods, sometimes without any assistance at all; it continues for a week or two to affect the animal, mildly, and then gradually disappears. However, in many, indeed in most cases, particularly among high bred and artificially treated dogs, the disease does not continue to confine its attack wholly to the nasal or bronchial membranes, but either through the medium of continuity, contiguity, or of sympathy, it proceeds to affect other parts; when other symptoms and appearances become superadded to those already noticed. From the nasal membranes, the affection appears often transmitted (probably through the medium of the frontal sinuses) to the cerebral coverings, perhaps to the brain itself; where its effects produce, in some cases, that paralysis of the loins and hinder extremities before noticed; and in others, spasmodic movements, or twitchings, over the muscles of a part or of the whole body, which, when they are violent, give the sufferers a grotesque and ridiculous appearance. Both the paralysis and these spasms remain, in some cases, for months after the other symptoms have disappeared, and, sometimes, even through life. When the cerebral affection is more acute, a symptomatic epilepsy appears in the form of those convulsive fits so common and so fatal to distemper. These fits are generally, at first, trifling-, and are often confined to the muscles of the jaws, which appear to champ, as though irritated by an unpleasant substance put into the mouth; a little foam is usually produced by the champing-, and in two or three minutes the affection ceases. Cold water thrown in the face, or even a little encouragement by fondling-, will frequently immediately remove these attacks: but it is very seldom that these convulsive appearances, however trifling-, having- once occurred during- the progress of distemper, but that they are followed up by others, at uncertain intervals of a few minutes to a few hours, each succeeding fit increasing-in violence until the whole frame is contorted by the effect of the convulsion: the animal cries, rolls, runs round,, or is drawn first to one side and then to the other. The fits are attended sometimes with a total, sometimes with a partial mental alienation. When it is total, the dog- is most violent; he waters and dung-s unconsciously, he tears up the ground, bites every thing around him, and not unfrequently himself also. When the fit is over, he shakes himself, and looks and acts as usual, unless the attacks are very violent and long-continued, when they leave him greatly exhausted and dispirited. The second, third, or fourth day from the first appearance of these epileptic attacks commonly closes the scene, the’ animal being- worn down by the additional strength and increased frequency of each succeeding recurrence.

The attack of convulsions may be often foretold for some days even previous to its appearance. When, during- great emaciation and loss of appetite, a distempered dog- suddenly appears more cheerful, cats heartily, and shews more brightness and briskness of the eyes than before, it may be expected that he is going to be attacked with fits. If the appetite becomes at once not only considerable but greedy, and the eyes look very bright and sparkling, the event may be considered as certain. In some instances, the sudden stopping- of the looseness is likewise the forerunner, perhaps the occasion of fits: but it is remarkable, that, when the diarrhoea is overcome by medicine, such an event rarely occurs. A cessation of the secretion from the head will sometimes likewise occur before the epileptic attack, and it is by no means difficult to conceive how so sudden an alteration in the action of the contiguous surfaces may materially affect the brain. Dissection of subjects who have died from this sympathetic epilepsy does not throw much light on the nature of it; sometimes there is sanguineous effusion over the brain, and an increased vascularity of its membranes; in other instances, the cerebral substance has appeared to be slightly softened, and now and then an undue secretion has appeared within the ventricles

Instances occur where, from the bronchial passages, the affection proceeds to the substance of the lungs, and produces all the appearances of peripneumony (which see). Now and then, so much congestion takes place within the chest, as to carry the dog off in a few days; but more frequently the pneumonic attack is less violent, and continues to harass him with a distressing cough, and every mark of inflammatory fever. From the lungs, the specific inflammation extends to the liver, oftentimes; in which cases the emaciation and debility become more peculiarly apparent; a pustular eruption often appears; the inside of the mouth, the whites of the eyes, and every part where the skin is naked, looks yellow; the urine is of a very deep yellow colour from the bile infused, and pain is expressed on pressing the belly. On the dissection of cases that have died in this way, I have fancied I could distinguish some difference between the morbid appearances that the thoracic and abdominal viscera have presented from those apparent when the subjects have died from peripneumony, or hepatitis, unconnected with distemper. The parts subjected to the specific inflammation were more than usually pale, flaccid, and relaxed, and exhibited less vascularity than is usually apparent when the inflammation has been pure and unspecific.

After the distempered attack has been made on the head or bronchial passages, or both, it is not uncommon for the further violence of the affection to appear directed to the alimentary canal principally, in which cases a diarrhoea or purging commences, that often proves so obstinate as to frustrate every attempt to stop it; and it either proceeds to destroy the animal by emaciation (without, perhaps, any great apparent severity in the other symptoms), or, by its debilitating- nature, it paves the way for an attack of the convulsions. Now and then, however, the diarrhoea precedes the other symptoms, but this is less common: it sometimes, also, precedes a declining appetite, but, in every instance, a total disinclination to food ensues when the looseness has extended beyond two or three days (It would not be uninteresting to inquire how far the diarrhoea, so prevalent in distemper, may be considered as a primary morbid attack on the bowels themselves; or how far it is purely symptomatic, and dependent on a diseased state of other parts. We know that a relaxation of bowels is common in many human eomplaints, as phthisis pulmonalis, &e. &e., and whieh is more the result of a sympathetic influence than of a direet miasma applied to the organs themselves. We also know that a secondary miasma may be generated by the altered seeretions of morbid parts. Are we to attribute the diarrhoea of distemper to these miasmata generated in the head, and then transmitted along the alimentary eanal, or othewise absorbed from the lungs, and carried by means of the circulation into the same track, where they produee their irritating influence, as we witness in eynanche maligna, and other putrid diseases ? The early appearanee of diarrhoea, in some eases, would lead to a conclusion that the former mode may operate; while the increased frequency with which purging appears later in the complaint, would strengthen an opinion that the latter was the agent.

Another, and most fatal type of the disease, is that of a malignant putrid fever into which the distemper not unfrequently runs, either from its catarrhal, pneumonic, or hepatic states; that is, however it commences, it does in many-cases degenerate into this malignant state, particularly in very hot weather, or when an epidemic tendency to this type of disease is prevalent. These cases are characterised by an extreme debility, rapid emaciation, and total loss of appetite, accompanied with an enormous purulent discharge from the eyes and nose, but particularly from the latter, and sometimes from the cars also. As the disease proceeds, the pituitary discharge becomes extreme, of a most foetid odour, and often bloody; sometimes a considerable nasal haemorrhage will occur. The eyes likewise, and sometimes the ears also, pour out putrid pus; the gums bleed, and the tongue is either furred with a dark crust, or presents marks of ulceration. Within the nose deep ulcers appear, the secretion from which is so acrid in many instances, as to produce a species of coryza, which excoriates the lips, cheeks, and every part it touches. Not only are the exhalations from the nose, eyes, and mouth, most foetid, but the whole body emits a cadaverous stench also. Diarrhoea is often present likewise, and tends greatly to aggravate the other symptoms, especially when the stools are bloody, which is very commonly the case. The duration of this malignant form of the disease varies according to its severity, the strength of the patient, or the means made use of to counteract it. I have seen it carry off a dog in three or four days, and I have not unfrequently witnessed its protraction to as many weeks; but, in all, its fatal tendency renders it extremely difficult to combat. On dissection of such as die of it, not only the mucous membranes of the head and chest present ulceration, but the whole alimentary canal affords proof of its virulence, by livid spots or ulcerated excoriations; and the whole animal mass, solids as well as fluids, seem involved in one common putrid solution.

Treatment of Distemper

According to the mode in which the disease attacks a dog, so must the treatment be conducted. It is to the numerous varieties in the complaint that we are led to attribute that endless number of remedies continually prescribed for it; every one of which, from being occasionally beneficial, becomes, in the mind of the person using it, infallible. Distemper is, therefore, seldom spoken of among a number of sportsmen, but each of them is acquainted with a certain cure, one that has never failed with him. Whenever I could gain a knowledge of the composition, I have always given these nostrums, or private recipes, a fair trial: but I never yet found that any one of them answered the account given of it. In fact, the varieties in the complaint are so numerous, that hardly any two cases can be treated exactly alike; consequently no one remedy can be equally applicable to all: for, however efficacious it may prove in a certain number of instances, in others it will produce but equivocal benefit.

Perhaps two out of every three cases of distemper commence by dulness, inclination to sleep, wasting, shivering, a husky cough, with a flow of moisture from the eyes and nose. In these instances, the proper course is to commence with an emetic. Should there be any disposition to costiveness, provided the dog is strong and fat, give also a mild purge; but if he is weakly, or the least inclined to looseness of bowels, abstain from the purge. After the emetic, or purge, has ceased to operate some hours, give one, two, or three grains of antimonial powder every morning, or every evening, or both, according as the symptoms are more or less urgent (Where a prejudice in favour of Dr. James’s Powder exists, that may be given in similar doses; but the antimonial powder, so called, is, to all intents and purposes, the same preparation). But, in cases where the cough is frequent and distressing, the following powders will be preferable: —

Antimonial powder………………………… 12 grains

Powdered foxglove………………………… 8 grains

Nitre, in powder…………………………… half a dram.

Mix, and divide into ten doses if the dog is small, into seven if of a middling size, and into five if he is large; and give one of them every night and morning. Continue this plan for two or three days; after which, if the dog remains strong, give another emetic, and, when it is worked off, recommence the fever remedies. Should diarrhoea or purging come on, discontinue these medicines, and have recourse to those detailed under the head Looseness of Bowels.

Should the bowels not be relaxed, as soon as the inflammatory symptoms have somewhat abated, and when, instead of a watery moisture, the eyes and nose exude pus, or matter, then the fever remedies, above described, may very properly give place to others.

It is at this period of the disease I have experienced the happiest effects from the popular Distemper Remedy, discovered by me. This medicine has stood the lest of nearly thirty years’ trial; and although the varied appearances in the complaint render other auxiliaries absolutely necessary, yet no case of distemper can occur (that only excepted in which the purging continues without intermission) in which this Powder may not be given with great benefit in some stage of the disease.

Whenever, therefore, this Remedy is within reach, I would strongly recommend that it may be tried at this period of the complaint, according to the directions given with it. It should also be repeated as long as the benefit resulting from it is striking and marked. But as cases will occur where the debility which is apt to follow the purulent state becomes excessive, so it will be, in such cases, prudent to join with this Remedy the tonic remedy detailed below. Likewise, when the Distemper Powders are not at hand, or when they have been tried without evident benefit, it will be prudent, after the directions already detailed have been complied with, to proceed with the following tonic plan of treatment alone; of which it is not too much to say, that it will prove nearly as universal in its application, and as salutary in its effect, as even the specific above alluded to: —

Gum myrrh ……………………………….. 1 dram

Gum benjamin……………………………… 2scruples

Balsam of Peru……………………………… 1 dram

Camomile flowers, powdered…………….. 2 drams

Camphor……………………………………… 1 scruple.

Mix with honey, conserve of roses, or other adhesive matter, into twelve, nine, or six balls, according to the size of the dog, and give one of them every night and morning.

If the weakness becomes extreme, if the matter from the eyes and nose flows rapidly, and is very fetid, add two drams of cascarilla bark, and a grain of opium, to the mass of balls. In such cases also, strong gravies, or gruel made as caudle with ale in it, should be given or forced down two or three times a day. Meat balls may be also forced down, if the dog will not eat voluntarily.

During every stage of distemper, and under every variety, except the very inflammatory state which occurs in the commencement, it is proper to feed liberally; and, as soon as the animal refuses his food, it is equally proper that nutriment should be forced down. — See the subject of feeding the sick at the commencement of the work (When food is voluntarily taken, it is infinitely to be preferred to forcing; every enticement should therefore be used to encourage this: but when forcing becomes absolutely necessary, the stomach should not be overloaded, or the animal may bring what is given up again, which, if once done, is very apt to be repeated after each forcing).

But, from what has been remarked, it will be evident that the foregoing type is not the only one by which distemper makes its attack; on the contrary, it sometimes commences by diarrhoea or looseness, and which, instead of being hurtful, is unfortunately often supposed useful: in which cases, from a fear of the consequences of checking it, the dog is very frequently brought so low as to be past recovery. But it cannot be too strongly insisted on, that even in the very first stages of the complaint, and when even artificial purgatives seem to be indicated by the symptoms, this voluntary purging should always be considered as a morbid one, and promptly checked, if not entirely stopped. At all other periods of the complaint, it should be entirely and immediately stopped. At whatever period likewise it occurs, during the progress of the complaint, when other remedies are administring, it is proper that they should be suspended, and astringents only used, until the diarrhoea has entirely ceased, when the former remedies may be again had recourse to.

When the distemper appears with symptoms of great affection of the chest, as described among its varieties, bleed by the neck, blister the chest, and treat (as long as peripneumonic symptoms prevail) as directed under inflamed lungs; taking care to carry the depleting system on further than is absolutely necessary.

Sometimes, though not very frequently, the distemper commences its attack by a convulsive fit; in which instance also it is proper to begin the treatment by an emetic, and to follow it up by a purgative (* I have observed that one, or even two, violent fits appearing thus early in the complaint, arc not always followed by others, nor by any greater severity of symptoms than visual. Is such a fit at all similar to what sometimes precedes eruptive human complaints?). And at whatever period of the complaint this symptomatic epilepsy makes its appearance, immediately that the dog comes out of the first fit, give a very strong emetic, as the most effective means of all others to prevent a second attack. Should, however, other fits succeed after the emetic, the following medicine should be actively persevered in: —

AEther……………………………………….. 1 dram

Tineture of opium (laudanum) …………… half a dram

Camphor…………………………………….. 10 grains

Spirit of hartshorn…………………………. 1 dram.

Mix, and give forty, sixty, or eighty drops, according to size, every hour or two, in a spoonful of ale, increasing the dose after each fit. Use a very warm bath, and keep the animal both warm and moist some hours afterwards, by means of wrapping in flannel and keeping before a fire: avoid irritation, force nourishment, and endeavour to shorten every fit, by sprinkling cold water in the face, and likewise by soothing language and manner, which have often the happiest effect in lessening the force and duration of the convulsion. If these means should fortunately succeed, continue to keep the animal quiet, and particularly refrain from giving much exercise, which is very apt to bring on a recurrence of the fits.

The importance of the subject renders it not improper again to repeat, that, of all the symptoms that appear, the epileptic convulsions are the most fatal. It is, therefore, of the utmost consequence to prevent their occurrence; for, when once they have made their attack, art is too apt to fail in attempting their removal. The best preventive means that I know of, are to avoid or to remove all circumstances tending to produce debility, as looseness, low poor diet, too much exercise, exposure to cold, extreme evacuation from the nose, and, no less, the operation of mental irritation, from fear, surprise, or regret; all of which, I must again repeat, are very common causes of fits in distemper (The extreme fatality attending these fits prevents me from embodying in the substance of the treatment more means for their removal; but it may not be improper here to notiee, that, in addition to the remedies detailed, I have occasionally administered eajeput oil, eastor, musk, oil of amber internally and externally, belladonna, and nitrate of silver; but all with equivoeal success only. Blisters to the head, and stimulating applications, to the nostrils, I have also tried, with some alleviation of the violence and longer periods between the recurrence, but not with sufficient benefit to enable me to recommend them very strongly. A ligature round the neek, not tight enough to impede respiration, but sufficiently so to prevent a free passage of blood to and from the head, I have also tried, but I eannot say with any marked benefit; I feel however inclined to recommend a further trial of this experiment. Whatever means arc resorted to, they should be prompt and active; for as these cases may be considered as otherwise hopeless, so very powerful means may be applied, and very active medicines employed with propriety).

It yet remains to point out the proper treatment of such cases of distemper as degenerate into a malignant putrid type, either epidemic or occasional. The symptoms of this variety of the disease have been already detailed, and from them it will be evident that our curative endeavours should be principally directed to prevent the septic or putrid tendency that exists. As an internal medicine, either of the following mixtures may be tried; beginning with the first, and changing it for the second if it should produce purging, or not sit easy on the stomach, or if benefit does not follow its administration. Under either of these circumstances, the second may also be afterwards changed for the third: —

Acetated water of ammonia (Mindercrus’s spirit) ………………………………….. 4 ounces

Peruvian bark, in powder …………………… 2 drams

Tincture of opium ……………………………. 40 drops:


Yeast …………………………………………… 2 ounces

Decoction of bark ……………………………. 2 ounces:


Spirit of nitrous nether ………………………… half an ounce

Camphor ………………………………………. half a dram

Aromatic confection …………………………. 2 drams

Camomile infusion …………………………… 4 ounces.

Give of either, one, two, three, or four table spoonsful, according to the size, every three or four hours. If diarrhoea should prove a bar to the administration, increase the opiate to twenty drops with each dose, or alternate these remedies with those detailed under the head Looseness; but in every case of this nature, diarrhoea is so much to be dreaded, that the attempts to restrain it must give place to every other, when, from its violence, the antiseptic and astringent plans cannot be carried on together. Food of the most nutritious quality, as already insisted on, should, in these cases particularly, be unsparingly administered. Free access of air is indispensible, and a constant change of litter and the removal of every thing likely to harbour the putrid exhalations, is most desirable. The foetor may be very properly corrected by sprinkling the place the animal is placed in with vinegar. I have, sometimes, used equal parts of vinegar and water as a daily wash to the body of the dog himself with benefit; and in very bad cases, when the running from the nose is extreme in quantity, bloody, and very offensive, and when ulcers are apparent within either the nose or mouth, or both, I would recommend both nose and mouth to be syringed or washed with the following, by means of a small piece of sponge tied to a skewer: —

Cayenne pepper ……………………………… half a dram

Vinegar ………………………………………… 2 ounces

Decoction of either peruvian, oak, or elm bark …………….. 4 ounces.

The malignant distemper is sometimes accompanied with a gathering of matter within a tumour which is usually situated near the commissure of the jaws. When the suppurative process is complete, and the tumour bursts, a malignant spreading ulcer succeeds, which, in all the cases I witnessed, the most active means proved insufficient to arrest.

It will, perhaps, excite some surprise, that I have so long omitted to mention that very popular remedy for distemper, a seton in the neck. In truth, I think setons very seldom deserve the commendation bestowed on them; on the contrary, I believe they sometimes do more harm than good. In the latter stages of the complaint, I am certain they weaken the patient, and prove very hurtful. In one state in which distemper sometimes commences, however, I think them highly advisable; and this is where there is evidently much active inflammation going on in the head: that is, when at the very outset of the complaint there is such an impatience of light, that the dog cannot face it, but blinks, closes his eyes, and hides himself as much as possible from it. The state 1 allude to, is not when the eyes are closed with matter, but it is at an earlier period of the complaint, and when, in general cases, the eyes are affected with a watery moisture only, which in these instances is also present, but with a more than usual increase of irritability in these organs, rendering them unable to bear the light without pain. On looking into the eyes in such cases, the substance of the globe appears inflamed and bloodshot, and the pupil red and fiery. When these symptoms are present, I would recommend the use of setons in the neck, as the best means of causing a counter action. In such cases, also, warm steamings to the head, or even fomentations of vinegar and water, may be very properly tried. For, it may be regarded as a rule subject to few exceptions, that these appearances prognosticate that the animal will have the complaint badly; these cases, in general, becoming soon affected with convulsions. If a dog thus attacked is moderately strong, and in tolerable condition, bleeding and purging are also proper: but even here the lowering system must not be pursued too far, or it will hasten the attack of fits.

In the advanced stage of distemper, should the eyes become ulcerated, which is a very common occurrence, treat them as directed under Diseases of the Eyes: and it may not be improper to remark here, that those ophthalmic ulcers arising from distemper, though they may appear to have actually destroyed the eye, will yet often gradually heal, the parts will reinstate themselves, and the sight will return uninjured. This regeneration is, however, peculiar to the ophthalmia of distemper.

Finally, as a guide to the inexperienced, it may not be improper to recapitulate the general treatment under the usual circumstances of the complaint; for this end, the following rules may be regarded as a summary: — Feed liberally; carefully remedy a continued looseness of bowels; give exercise very sparingly; keep warm in every stage but the putrid; carefully avoid irritation; and ever keep in mind, that the distemper is a disease, more than any other, liable to a recurrence: therefore do not discontinue the care or the medical treatment for at least three weeks after the recovery has appeared complete. And as a recurrence of the complaint frequently appears by one of those fits which have been described as so fatal, from their being so usually followed up by others, with increased strength and frequency, so this secondary attack should be carefully guarded against, by a continuance of the medical treatment of the first, for a considerable time after all the symptoms have disappeared; and until the health, strength, and acquisition of flesh, have become complete. But in the event of a return of the disease, should a fit be the first symptom of it, immediately give a strong emetic, and proceed as directed before. Should the recurrence be marked by returning dulness, and disinclination to food, or, as is the case sometimes, by a return of the looseness, so recourse should again be had to the former treatment directed as proper for these states; but principally the tonic or strengthening plan is proper in these secondary attacks, and which should again be continued even a more considerable length of time after all symptoms have ceased than before.

Selections from the book Canine pathology; or, a description of the diseases of dogs & c. & c. by Blaine, Delabere (London, 1824)

Distemper in dogs have been mentioned in 1845

By this singular name is distinguished a prevalent disease now about to come under our consideration, which was first observed on the continent. The rapidity with which it spread, the strange protean appearances which it assumed, and its too frequent fatal termination, surprised and puzzled the veterinary surgeons; and they called it “la maladie des chiens,” the disease or distemper in dogs.

It is comparatively a new disease. It was imported from France about one hundred years since, although some French authors have strangely affirmed that it is of British origin. Having once gained footing among us, it has established itself in our country, to the vexation and loss of the sportsman, and the annoyance of the veterinary surgeon. However keepers, or even men of education, may boast of their specifics, it is a sadly fatal disease, and destroys fully one-third of the canine race.

Dogs of all ages are subject to its attack. Many, nine and ten years old, have died of pure distemper; and I have seen puppies of only three weeks fall victims to it; but it oftenest appears between the sixth and twelfth month of the animal’s life. If it occurs at an early period, it proves fatal in the great majority of cases; and, if the dog is more than four years old, it generally goes hard with him. It is undeniably highly contagious, yet it is frequently generated. In this it bears an analogy to mange, and to farcy and glanders in the horse.

One attack of the disease, and even a severe one, is no absolute security against its return; although the dog that has once laboured under distemper possesses a certain degree of immunity; or, if he is attacked a second time, the malady usually assumes a milder type. I have, however, known it occur three times in the same animal, and at last destroy him.

Violent catarrh will often terminate in distemper; and low and insufficient feeding will produce it. It frequently follows mange, and especially if mercury has been used in the cure of the malady. When we see a puppy with mange, and that peculiar disease in which the skin becomes corrugated, and more especially if it is a spaniel, and pot-bellied or rickety, we generally say that we can cure the mange, but it will not be long before the animal dies of distemper; and so it happens in three cases out of four. “Whatever debilitates the constitution predisposes it for the reception or the generation of distemper. It, however, frequently occurs without any apparent exciting cause.

That it is highly contagious cannot admit of doubt. A healthy dog can seldom, for many days, be kept with another that labours under distemper without becoming affected; and the disease is communicated by the slightest momentary contact. There is, however, a great deal of caprice about this. I have more than once kept a dog in the foul-yard of my hospital for several successive weeks, and he has not become diseased. Inoculation with the matter that flows from the nose, either limpid or purulent, and in an early or advanced stage of the distemper, will, with few exceptions, produce the disease; yet I have failed to communicate it even by this method. Inoculation used to be recommended as producing a milder and less fatal disease. So far as my experience goes, the contrary has been the result.

Distemper is also epidemic. It occurs more frequently in the spring and autumn than in the winter and summer. If one or two dogs in a certain district are affected, we may be assured that it will soon extensively prevail there; and where the disease could not possibly be communicated by contagion. Sometimes it rages all over the country. At other times it is endemic, and confined to some particular district.

Not only is the disease epidemic or endemic, but the form which it assumes is so. In one season, almost every dog with distemper has violent fits; at another, in the majority of cases, there will be considerable chest affection, running on to pneumonia; a few months afterwards, a great proportion of the distempered dogs will be worn down by diarrhoea, which no medicine will arrest; and presently it will be scarcely distinguishable from mild catarrh.

It varies much with different breeds. The shepherd’s dog, generally speaking, cares little about it; he is scarcely ill a day. The cur is not often seriously affected. The terrier has it more severely, especially the white terrier. The hound comes next in the order of severity; and after him the setter. With the small spaniel it is more dangerous; and still more so with the pointer, especially if he has the disease early. Next in the order of fatality comes the pug; and it is most fatal of all with the Newfoundland dog. Should a foreign dog be affected, he almost certainly dies. The greater part of the northern dogs brought by Captain Parry did not survive a twelvemonth; and the delicate Italian greyhound has little chance, when imported from abroad.

Not only does it thus differ in different species of dogs, but in different breeds of the same species. I have known several gentlemen who have laboured in vain for many years, to rear particular and valuable breeds of pointers and greyhounds. The distemper would uniformly carry off five out of six. Other sportsmen laugh at the supposed danger of distemper, and declare that they seldom lose a dog. This hereditary predisposition to certain kinds of disease cannot be denied, and is not sufficiently attended to. When a peculiar fatality has often followed a certain breed, the owner should cross it from another kennel, and especially from the kennel of one who boasts of his success in the treatment of distemper. This has occasionally succeeded far beyond expectation.

It is time to proceed to the symptoms of this disease; but here there is very considerable difficulty, for it is a truly protean malady, and it is impossible to fix on any symptom that will invariably characterise it.

An early and frequent symptom is a gradual loss of appetite, spirits, and condition: the dog is less obedient to his master, and takes less notice of him. The eyes appear weak and watery; and there will be a very slight limpid discharge from the nose. In the morning there will, perhaps, be a little indurated mucus at the inner corner of the eye. This may continue two or three weeks without serious or scarcely recognisable illness. Then a peculiar husky cough is heard, altogether different from the sonorous cough of catarrh, or the wheezing of asthma. It is an apparent attempt to get something from the fauces or throat. By degrees the discharge from the eyes and nose, and particularly the former, will increase. More mucus will collect in the corners of the eye; and the eye will sometimes be closed in the morning. The conjunctiva, and particularly that portion which covers the sclerotica, will be considerably injected, but there will not be the usual intense redness of inflammation. The vessels will be large and turgid rather than numerous, and frequently of a darkish hue.

Occasionally, however, the inflammation of the conjunctiva will be exceedingly intense, the membrane vividly red, and the eye impatient of light. An opacity spreads over the cornea, and this is quickly succeeded by ulceration. The first spot of ulceration is generally found precisely in the centre of the cornea, and is perfectly circular: this will distinguish it from a scratch or other injury. The ulcer widens and deepens, and sometimes eats through the cornea, and the aqueous humour escapes. Fungous granulations spring from it, protrude through the lids, and the animal evidently suffers extreme torture.

A remarkable peculiarity attends this affection of the eye. However violent may be the inflammation, and by whatever disorganization it may be accompanied, if we can cure the distemper the granulations will disappear, the ulcer will heal, the opacity will clear away, and the eye will not eventually suffer in the slightest degree. One-fourth part of the mischief in other cases, unconnected with distemper, would inevitably terminate in blindness; but permanent blindness is rarely the consequence of distemper.

It may not be improper here shortly to revert to the different appearance of the eye in rabies. In the early stage of this malady there is an unnatural and often terrific brightness of the eye; but the cornea in distemper is from the first rather clouded. In rabies there is frequent strabismus, with the axis of the eye distorted outwards. The apparent squinting of the eye in distemper is caused by the probably unequal protrusion of the membrana nictitans over a portion of the eye at the inner canthus, in order to protect it from the light. In rabies, the white cloudiness which I have described, and the occasional ulceration with very little cloudiness, and the ulceration, are confined to the cornea; but a dense green opacity comes on, speedily followed by ulceration and disorganization of every part of the eye.

The dog will, at this stage of distemper, be evidently feverish, and will shiver and creep to the fire. He will more evidently and rapidly lose flesh. The huskiness will be more frequent and troublesome, and the discharge from the nose will have greater consistence. It will be often and violently sneezed out, and will gradually become more or less purulent. It will stick about the nostrils and plug them up, and thus afford a considerable mechanical obstruction to the breathing.

The progress of the disease is now uncertain. Sometimes fits come on, speedily following intense inflammation of the eye; or the inflammation of the nasal cavity appears to be communicated, by proximity, to the membrane of the brain. One fit is a serious thing. If it is followed by a second within a day or two, the chances of cure are diminished; and if they rapidly succeed each other, the dog is almost always lost. These fits seldom appear without warning; “and, if their approach is carefully watched, they may possibly be prevented.

However indisposed to eat the dog may have previously been, the appetite returns when the fits are at hand, and the animal becomes absolutely voracious. Nature seems to be providing for the great, expenditure of power which epilepsy will soon occasion. The mucus almost entirely disappears from the eyes, although the discharge from the nose may continue unabated; and for an hour or more before the fit there will be a champing of the lower jaw, frothing at the mouth, and discharge of saliva. The champing of the lower jaw will be seen at least twelve hours before the first fit, and will a little while precede every other. There will also be twitchings of some part of the frame, and usually of the mouth, cheek, or eyelid. It is of some consequence to attend to these, as enabling us to distinguish between fits of distemper and those of teething, worms, or unusual excitement. The latter come on suddenly. The dog is apparently well, and racing about full of spirits, and without a moment’s warning he falls into violent convulsions.

“We may here, likewise, be enabled to distinguish between rabies and distemper. When a person, unacquainted with dogs, sees a dog struggling in a fit, or running along unconscious of every surrounding object, or snapping at every thing in his way, whether it be a human being or a stone, he raises the cry of “mad dog,” and the poor brute is often sacrificed. The very existence of a fit is proof positive that the dog is not mad. No epilepsy accompanies rabies in any stage of that disease.

The inflammation of the membrane of the nose and fauces is sometimes propagated along that of the windpipe, and the dog exhibits unequivocal proofs of chest affection, or decided pneumonia.

At other times the bowels become affected, and a violent purging comes on. The faeces vary from white with a slight tinge of gray, to a dark slate or olive colour. By degrees mucus begins to mingle with the faecal discharge, and then streaks of blood. The faecal matter rapidly lessens, and the whole seems to consist of mingled mucus and blood; and, from first to last, the stools are insufferably offensive. When the mingled blood and mucus appear, so much inflammation exists in the intestinal canal that the case is almost hopeless.

The discharge from the nose becomes decidedly purulent. While it is white and without smell, and the dog is not too much emaciated, the termination may be favourable; but when it becomes of a darker colour, and mingled with blood, and offensive, the ethmoid or turbinated bones are becoming carious, and death supervenes. This will particularly be the case if the mouth and lips swell, and ulcers begin to appear on them, and the gums ulcerate, and a sanious and highly offensive discharge proceeds from the mouth. A singular, half-fetid smell arising from the dog, is the almost invariable precursor of death.

When the disease first visited the continent it was regarded as a humoral disease. Duhamel, who was one of the earliest to study the character of the malady, contended that the biliary sac contained the cause of the complaint: the bile assumed a concrete form, and its superabundance was the cause of disease. Barrier, one of the earliest writers on the subject, described it as a violent irregular bilious fever. Others regarded it as a mucous discharge, or a depurative; and others, as a salutary crisis, removing from the constitution that which oppressed the different organs. Others had recourse to inoculation, in order to give it a more benign character; and others, and among them Chabert, considered that it possessed a character of peculiar malignity, and he gave it a name expressive of its nature and situation — nasal catarrh. It exhibited the ordinary symptoms of coryza; it was a catarrhal affection in its early stage; but it afterwards degenerated into a species of palsy. The causes were unknown. By some, they were attributed to the natural voracity of-the dog; by others, to his occasional lasciviousness; by others, to his frequent feeding on carrion, or the refuse of fat and soups.

There is no doubt that nasal catarrh is, to a very considerable degree, contagious on the continent. It often spreads over a wide extent of country, and includes numerous animals of various descriptions. It is complicated with-various diseases; and particularly, at an early stage, with ophthalmia. It may be interesting to the reader to trace the progress of the disease among our continental neighbours. It commences with a certain depression of spirits; a diminution of appetite; a heaviness of the head; a heat of the mouth; an attempt to get something from the throat; an insatiable thirst; an elevated temperature of the body; a dry and painful suffocating cough; and all these circumstances continue from twenty to thirty days, until at length the dog droops and dies.

The duration of distemper is uncertain. It sometimes runs its course in five or six days; or it may linger on two or three months. In some cases the emaciation is rapid and extreme: danger is then to be apprehended. When the muscles of the loins are much attenuated, or almost wasted, there is little hope; and, although other symptoms may remit, and the dog may be apparently recovering, yet, if he continues to lose flesh, we may be perfectly assured that he will not live. On the other hand, let the discharge from the nose be copious, and the purging violent, and every other symptom threatening, yet if the animal gains a little flesh, we may confidently predict his recovery.

When the dog is much reduced in strength and flesh, a spasmodic affection or twitching of the muscles will sometimes be observed. It is usually confined at first to one limb; but the most decisive treatment is required, or these spasms will spread until the animal is altogether unable to stand; and while he lies every limb will be in motion, travelling, as it were, at the rate of twenty miles an hour, until the animal is worn out, and dies of absolute exhaustion. When these spasms become universal and violent, they are accompanied by constant and dreadful moans and cries.

In the pointer and the hound, and particularly when there is little discharge from the eyes or nose, an intense yellowness often suddenly appears all over the dog. He falls away more in twenty-four hours than it would be thought possible; his bowels are obstinately constipated; he will neither eat nor move; and in two or three days he is dead.

In the pointer, hound, and greyhound, there sometimes appears on the whole of the chest and belly a pustular eruption, which peels off in large scales. The result is usually unfavourable. A more general eruption, however, either wearing the usual form of mange, or accompanied by minute pustules, may be regarded as a favourable symptom. The disease is leaving the vital parts, and expending its last energy on the integument.

The post-mortem appearances are exceedingly unsatisfactory: they do not correspond with the original character of the disease, but with its strangely varying symptoms. If the dog has died in fits, we have inflammation of the brain or its membranes, and particularly at the base of the brain, with considerable effusion of a serous or bloody fluid. If the prevailing symptoms have led our attention to the lungs, we find inflammation of the bronchial passages, or, in a few instances, of the substance of the lungs, or the submucous tissue of the cells. We rarely have inflammation of the pulmonary pleura, and never to any extent of the intercostal pleura. In a few lingering cases, tubercles and vomicse of the lungs have been found.

If the bowels have been chiefly attacked, we have intense inflammation of the mucous membrane, and, generally speaking, the small intestines are almost filled with worms. If the dog has gradually wasted away, which is often the case when purging to any considerable extent has been encouraged or produced, we have contraction of the whole canal, including even the stomach, and sometimes considerable enlargement of the mesenteric glands. ( The following is a very frequent and unexaggerated history of distemper, when calomel has been given in too powerful doses: — August 30,1828. — A spaniel, six months old, has been ailing a fortnight, and three doses of calomel have been given by the owner. He has violent purging, with tenesmus and blood. Half-an-ounce of castor-oil administered. — 31 st. Astringents morning, noon, and night. — Sept. 6. The astringents have little effect, or, if the purging is restrained one day, it returns with increased violence on the following day. Getting rapidly thin. Begins to husk. Astringents continued. — 10th. The purging is at last overcome, but the huskiness has rapidly increased, accompanied by laborious and hurried respiration. Bleed to the extent of three ounces. — 11th. The breathing relieved, but he obstinately refuses to eat, and is forced several times in the day with arrow-root or strong soup. — 18th. He had become much thinner and weaker, and died in the evening. No appearance of inflammation on the thoracic viscera, nor in any part of the alimentary canal. The intestines are contracted through their whole extent. — Veterinarian, ii. 290.)

The membrane of the nose will always exhibit marks of inflammation, and particularly in the frontal sinuses and ethmoidal cells; and I have observed the portion of membrane on the septum, or cartilaginous division of the nostrils, between the frontal sinuses and ethmoidal cells, to be studded with small miliary tubercles. In advanced stages of the disease, attended with much defluxion from the nose, the cells of the ethmoidal bone and the frontal sinuses are filled with pus.

Ulceration is sometimes found on the membrane of the nose, oftenest on the spot to which I have referred — occasionally confined to that; and now and then spreading over the whole of the septum, and even corroding and eating through it; generally equal on both sides, of the septum; in a few instances extending into the fauces; seldom found in the larynx, but occasionally seen in the bronchial passages. The other viscera rarely present any remarkable morbid appearance.

The distemper is clearly a disease of the mucous membranes, usually commencing in the membrane of the nose, and resembling nasal catarrh. In the early stage it is coryza, or nasal catarrh; but the affection rapidly extends, and seems to attack the mucous membranes generally, determined to some particular one, either by atmospheric influence or accidental causes, or constitutional predisposition. The fits arise from general disturbance of the system, or from the proximity of the brain to the early seat of inflammation.

This account of the nature and treatment of distemper will, perhaps, be unsatisfactory to some readers. One thing, however, is clear, that for a disease which assumes such a variety of forms, there can be no specific; yet there is not a keeper who is not in possession of some supposed infallible nostrum. Nothing can be more absurd. A disease attacks ing so many organs, and, presenting so many and such different symptoms, must require a mode of treatment varying with the organ attacked and the symptom prevailing. The faith in these boasted specifics is principally founded on two circumstances — atmospheric influence and peculiarity of breed. There are some seasons when we can scarcely save a dog; there are others when we must almost wilfully destroy him in order to lose him. There are some breeds in which, generation after generation, five out of six die of distemper, while there are others in which not one out of a dozen dies. When the season is favourable, and the animal, by hereditary influence, is not disposed to assume the virulent type of the disease, these two important agents are overlooked, and the immunity from any fatal result is attributed to medicine. The circumstances most conducive to success will be the recollection that it is a disease of the mucous surfaces, and that we must not carry the depleting and lowering system too far. Keeping this in view, we must accommodate ourselves to the symptoms as they arise.

The natural medicine of the dog seems to be an emetic. The act of vomiting is very easily excited in him, and, feeling the slightest ailment, he flies to the dog-grass, unloads his stomach, and is at once well. In distemper, whatever be the form which it assumes, an emetic is the first thing to be given. Common salt will do when nothing else is at hand; but the best emetic, and particularly in distemper, consists of equal parts of calomel and tartar emetic. From half a grain to a grain and a half of each will constitute the dose.

This will act first as an emetic, and afterwards as a gentle purgative. Then, if the cough is urgent, and there is heaving at the flanks, and the nose is hot, a moderate quantity of blood may be taken — from three to twelve ounces — and this, if there has been previous constipation, may be followed by a dose of sulphate of magnesia, from two to six drachms.

In slight cases this will often be sufficient to effect a cure: but, if the dog still droops, and particularly if there is much huskiness, the antimonial or James’s powder, nitre and digitalis, in the proportion of from half a grain to a grain of digitalis, from two to five grains of the James’s powder, and from a scruple to a drachm of nitre, should be administered twice or thrice in a day. If on the third or fourth day the huskiness is not quite removed, the emetic should be repeated.

In these affections of the mucous membranes, it is absolutely necessary to avoid or to get rid of every source of irritation, and worms will generally be found a very considerable one in young dogs. If we can speedily get rid of them, distemper will often rapidly disappear; but, if they are suffered to remain, diarrhoea or fits are apt to supervene: therefore some worm medicine should be administered.

I have said that vomiting is very easily excited in the dog; and that for this reason we are precluded from the use of a great many medicines in our treatment of him. Calomel, aloes, jalap, scammony, and gamboge will generally produce sickness. We are, therefore, driven to some mechanical vermifuge; and a very effectual one, and that will rarely fail of expelling even the tape-worm, is tin filings or powdered glass. From half a drachm to a drachm of either may be advantageously given twice in the day. There may generally be added to them digitalis, James’s powder, and nitre, made into balls with palm oil and a little linseed meal. This course should be pursued in usual cases until two or three emetics have been given, and a ball morning and night on the intermediate days. Should the huskiness not diminish after the first two or three days, if the dog has not rapidly lost flesh, I should be disposed to take a little more blood, and to put a seton in the poll. It should be inserted between the ears, and reaching from ear to ear.

When there is fever and huskiness, and the dog is not much emaciated, a seton is an excellent remedy; but, if it is used indiscriminately, and when the animal is already losing ground, and is violently purging, we shall only hasten his doom, or rather make it more sure.

It is now, if ever, that pneumonia will be perceived. The symptoms of inflammation in the lungs of the dog can scarcely be mistaken. The quick and laborious breathing, the disinclination or inability to lie down, the elevated position of the head, and the projection of the muzzle will clearly mark it. More blood must be subtracted, a seton inserted, the bowels opened with Epsom salts, and the digitalis, nitre, and James’s powder given more frequently and in larger doses than before.

Little aid is to be derived from observation of the pulse of the dog; it differs materially in the breed, and size, and age of the animal. Many years’ practice have failed in enabling me to draw any certain conclusion from it. The best place to feel the pulse of the dog is at the side. We may possibly learn from it whether digitalis is producing an intermittent pulse, which it frequently will do, and which we wish that it should do: it should then be given a little more cautiously, and in smaller quantities.

If the pneumonia is evidently conquered, or we have proceeded thus far without any considerable inflammatory affection of the chest, we must begin to change our plan of treatment. If the huskiness continues, and the discharge from the nose is increased and thicker, and the animal is losing flesh and becoming weak, we must give only half the quantity of the sedative and diuretic medicine, and add some mild tonic, as gentian, chamomile, and ginger, with occasional emetics; taking care to keep the bowels in a laxative but not purging state. The dog should likewise be urged to eat; and, if he obstinately refuses all food, he should be forced with strong beef jelly, for a very great degree of debility will now ensue.

We have thus far considered the treatment of distemper from its commencement; but it may have existed several days before we were consulted, and the dog may be thin and husky, and refusing to eat. In such case we should give an emetic, and then a dose of salts, and after that proceed to the tonic and fever balls.

Should the strength of the animal continue to decline, and the discharge from the nose become purulent and offensive, the fever medicine must be omitted, and the tonic balls, with carbonate of iron, administered. Some veterinary surgeons are very fond of gum resins and balsams. Mr. Blaine, in his excellent treatise on the distemper in his Canine Pathology, recommends myrrh and benjamin, and balsam of Peru and camphor. I much doubt the efficacy of these drugs. They are beginning to get into disrepute in the practice of human medicine; and I believe that if they were all banished from the veterinary Materia Medica we should experience no loss. When the dog begins to recover, although not so rapidly as we could wish, the tonic balls, without the iron, may be advantageously given, with now and then an emetic, if huskiness should threaten to return; but mild and wholesome food, and country or good air, will be the best tonics.

If the discharge from the nose become very offensive, the lips swelled and ulcerated, and the breath fetid, half an ounce of yeast may be administered every noon, and the tonics morning and night; and the mouth should be frequently washed with a solution of chloride of lime.

At this period of the disease the sub-maxillary glands are sometimes very much enlarged, and a tumour or abscess is formed, which, if not timely opened, breaks, and a ragged ill-conditioned ulcer is formed, very liable to spread, and very difficult to heal. It is prudent to puncture this tumour as soon as it begins to point, for it will never disperse. After the opening, a poultice should be applied to cleanse the ulcer; after which it should be daily washed with the compound tincture of benjamin, and dressed with calamine ointment. Some balls should be given, and the animal liberally fed.

Should fits appear in an early stage, give a strong emetic; then bleed, and open the bowels with five or six grains of calomel, and a quarter of a grain of opium: after this insert a seton, and then commence the tonic balls.

The progress of fits in the early stages of the disease may thus be arrested. The occurrence of two or three should not make us despair; but, if they occur at a later period, and when the dog is much reduced, there is little hope. This additional expenditure of animal power will probably soon carry him off. All that is to be done, is to administer a strong emetic, obviate costiveness by castor oil, and give the tonic balls with opium.

Of the treatment of the yellow disease little can be said; we shall not succeed in one case in twenty. When good effect has been produced, it has been by one large bleeding, opening the bowels well with Epsom salts, and then giving grain doses of calomel twice a-day in a tonic ball.

While it is prudent to obviate costiveness, we should recollect that there is nothing more to be dreaded, in every stage of distemper, than diarrhoea. The purging of distemper will often bid defiance to the most powerful astringents. This shows the folly of giving violent cathartics in distemper; and, when I have heard of the ten, and twenty, and thirty grains of calomel that are sometimes given, I have thought it fortunate that the stomach of the dog is so irritable. The greater part of these kill-or-cure doses is ejected, otherwise the patient would soon be carried off by super-purgation. There is an irritability about the whole of the mucous membrane that may be easily excited, but cannot be so readily allayed; and, therefore, except in the earliest stage of distemper, or in fits, or limiting ourselves to the small portion of calomel which enters into our emetic, I would never give a stronger purgative than castor-oil or Epsom salts. It is of the utmost consequence that the purging of distemper should be checked as soon as possible.

In some diseases a sudden purging, and even one of considerable violence, constitutes what is called the crisis. It is hailed as a favourable symptom; and from that moment the animal begins to recover; but this is never the case in distemper: it is a morbid action which is then going on, and which produces a dangerous degree of debility.

The proper treatment of purging in cases of distemper is first to give a good dose of Epsom salts, in order to carry away any thing that may offend,-and then to ply the animal with mingled absorbents and astringents. A scruple of powdered chalk, ten grains of catechu, and five of ginger, with a quarter of a grain of opium, made into a ball with palm oil, may be given to a middle-sized dog twice or thrice every day. To this may be added injections of gruel, with the compound chalk mixture and opium.

When the twitchings which I have described begin to appear, a seton is necessary, whatever may be the degree to which the animal is reduced. Some stimulating embrocation, such as tincture of cantharides, may be rubbed along the whole course of the spine; and the medicine which has oftenest, but not always, succeeded is castor-oil, syrup of buckthorn, and syrup of white poppies, given morning and night, and a tonic ball at noon. If the dog will not now feed, he should be forced with strong soup. As soon, however, as the spasms spread over him, accompanied by a moaning that increases to a cry, humanity demands that we put an end to that which we cannot cure. Until this happens I would not despair; for many dogs have been saved that have lain several days perfectly helpless.

As to the chorea which I have mentioned as an occasional sequel of distemper, if the dog is in tolerable condition, and especially if he is gaining flesh, and the spring or summer is approaching, there is a chance of his doing well. A seton is the first thing; the bowels should be preserved from constipation; and the nitrate of silver, in doses of one-eighth of a grain, made into a pill with linseed meal, and increased to a quarter of a grain, should be given morning and night.

We should never make too sure of the recovery of a distempered dog, nor commit ourselves by too early a prognosis. It is a treacherous disease; the medicines should be continued until every symptom has fairly disappeared; and for a month at least.

It may be interesting to add the following account of the distemper in dogs by Dr. Jenner. Several of our modern writers have copied very closely from him.

“That disease among dogs which has familiarly been called the c distemper,’ has not hitherto, I believe, been much’ noticed by medical men. My situation in the country favouring my wishes to make some observations on this singular malady, I availed myself of it, during several successive years, among a large number of foxhounds belonging to the Earl of Berkeley; and, from observing how frequently it has been confounded with hydrophobia, I am induced to lay the result of my inquiries before the Medical and Chirurgical Society. It may be difficult, perhaps, precisely to ascertain the period of its first appearance in Britain. In this and the neighbouring counties, I have not been able to trace it back beyond the middle of the last century; but it has since spread universally. I knew a gentleman who, about forty-five years ago, destroyed the greater part of his hounds, from supposing them mad, when the distemper first broke out among them; so little was it then known by those most conversant with dogs. On the continent I find it has been known for a much longer period; it is as contagious among dogs as the small pox, measles, or scarlet fever among the human species; and the contagious miasmata, like those arising from the diseases just mentioned, retain their infectious properties a long time after separation from the distempered animal. Young hounds, for example, brought in a state of health into a kennel, where others have gone through the distemper, seldom escape it. I have endeavoured to destroy the contagion by ordering every part of a kennel to be carefully washed with water, then whitewashed, and finally to be repeatedly fumigated with the vapour of marine acid, but without any good result.

“The dogs generally sicken early in the second week after exposure to the contagion; it is more commonly a violent disease than otherwise, and cuts off at least one in three that are attacked by it. It commences with inflammation of the substance of the lungs, and generally of the mucous membrane of the bronchi. The inflammation at the same time seizes on the membranes of- the nostrils, and those lining the bones of the nose, particularly the nasal portion of the ethmoid bone. These membranes are often inflamed to such a degree as to occasion extravasation of blood, which I have observed coagulated on their surface. The breathing is short and quick, and the breath is often fetid; the teeth are covered with a dark mucus. There is frequently a vomiting of a glairy fluid. The dog commonly refuses food, but his thirst seems insatiable, and nothing cheers him like the sight of water. The bowels, although generally constipated as the disease advances, are frequently affected with diarrhoea at its commencement. The eyes are inflamed, and the sight is often obscured by mucus secreted from the eyelids, or by opacity of the cornea. The brain is often affected as early as the second day after the attack; the animal becomes stupid, and his general habits are changed. In this state, if not prevented by loss of strength, he sometimes wanders from his’home. He is frequently endeavouring to expel by forcible expirations the mucus from the trachea and fauces, with a peculiar rattling noise. His jaws are generally smeared with it, and it sometimes flows out in a frothy state, from his frequent champing.

“During the progress of the disease, especially in its advanced stages, he is disposed to bite and gnaw any thing within his reach; he has sometimes epileptic fits, and a quick succession of general though slight convulsive spasms of the muscles. If the dog survive, this affection of the muscles continues through life. He is often attacked with fits of a different description; he first staggers, then tumbles, rolls, cries as if whipped, and tears up the ground with his teeth and fore feet: he then lies down senseless and exhausted. On recovering, he gets up, moves his tail, looks placid, comes to a whistle, and appears in every respect much better than before the attack. The eyes, during this paroxysm, look bright, and, unless previously rendered dim by mucus, or opacity of the cornea, seem as if they were starting from their sockets. He becomes emaciated, and totters from feebleness in attempting to walk, or from a partial paralysis of the hind legs. In this state he sometimes lingers on till the third or fourth week, and then either begins to show signs of returning health (which seldom happens when the symptoms have continued with this degree of violence), or expires. During convalescence, he has sometimes, though rarely, profuse haemorrhage from the nose.

“When the inflammation of the lungs is very severe, he frequently dies on the third day. I knew one instance of a dog dying within twenty-four hours after the seizure; and in that short space of time the greater portion of the lungs was, from exudation, converted into a substance nearly as solid as the liver of a sound animal. In this case the liver itself was considerably inflamed, and the eyes and flesh universally were tinged yellow, though I did not observe any thing obstructing the biliary ducts. In other instances I have also observed the eyes looking yellow.

” The above is a description of the disease in its several forms; but in this, as in the diseases of the human body, there is every gradation in its violence.

“There is also another affinity to some human diseases, viz., that the animal which has once gone through it very rarely meets with a second attack. Fortunately this distemper is not communicable to man. Neither the effluvia from the diseased dog nor the bite have proved in any instance infectious; but, as it has often been confounded with canine madness, as I have before observed, it is to be wished that it were more generally understood; for those who are bitten by a dog in this state are sometimes thrown into such perturbation that hydrophobic symptoms have actually arisen from the workings of the imagination. Mr. John Hunter used to speak of a case somewhat of this description in his lectures.

“A gentleman who received a severe bite from a dog, soon after fancied the animal was mad. He felt a horror at the sight of liquids, and was actually convulsed on attempting to swallow them. So uncontrollable were his prepossessions, that Mr. Hunter conceived he would have died had not the dog which inflicted the wound been found and brought into his room in perfect health. This soon restored his mind to a state of tranquillity. The sight of water no longer afflicted him, and he quickly recovered.” (Medico-Chirurgical Transactions, 21st March, 1809)

Palsy, more or less complete, is sometimes the termination of the distemper in dogs.

It is usually accompanied by chorea, and it is then, in the majority of cases, hopeless. Setons should be inserted in the poll, being then, as nearly as possible, at the commencement of the spinal cord. They should be well stimulated and worn a considerable time. If they fail, a plaster composed of common pitch, with a very small quantity of yellow wax and some powdered cantharides, spread on sheep’s-skin, should be placed over the whole of the lumbar and sacral regions, extending half-way down the thigh on either side. The bowels should be kept open by mild aperients, in order that every source of irritation may be removed from the intestinal canal. Some mild and general tonic will likewise be useful, such as gentian and ginger.

Selections from the book The dog by Youatt, William (London, 1845)

Distemper in dogs have been mentioned in 1878

Probably no disease to which our canine friends are subject has received less attention scientifically, or caused greater diversity of opinion when it has received that attention, than the one termed “Distemper.” Every gamekeeper, dog-breaker, or kennel-man has his particular recipe; most druggists possess some wonderful prescription; while sporting and other papers abound in advertisements of specifics and nostrums.

In discussing this subject, it is not my intention to lay down any fixed rule of treatment adapted to every case, but only for those in which the disease assumes the forms herein described, and from which I have derived the greatest benefit.

Nature, in many instances, works her own cure; while numerous methods of treatment produce mischief, and result in death.

Distemper may be described as a catarrhal fever, generally affecting the mucous membranes of the head, air-passages, and alimentary tract, in which the nervous system frequently becomes involved — hence distemper fits, and local or general paralysis. It is a highly contagious disease, though oftentimes it is undoubtedly self-generated. Age is no preventive; at any period of life dogs are liable to become infected. But Mr. Fleming correctly observes, ” It is more particularly a disease of youth, and is much more frequent and fatal among highly-bred, pampered animals, than those which live in a less artificial manner, and whose constitution is less modified by breeding and rearing.” (“Veterinary Sanitary Science and Police,” vol. ii. p. 290) Neither does one attack render a dog secure from a second; but in the latter it is contracted, I believe, invariably by contagion alone.

Distemper is not, as many persons suppose, a necessary disease, as numbers of dogs pass through life without ever becoming the subject of it. The fact of the malady being unknown in this country prior to the seventeenth century (?) strongly supports this view; as dogs then were probably as numerous as now, though not perhaps so mixed in breed.

In all cases it is ushered in with catarrhal symptoms, and these, as the malady proceeds, may become complicated with pneumonia, jaundice, enteric disease, epilepsy, chorea, or paralysis: though the two latter are, as a rule, sequels, I have occasionally seen them exist in conjunction with distemper.


These may be enumerated under the following heads: — Contagion, badly-drained and ill-ventilated kennels (which in young dogs are especially fruitful causes of distemper), exposure to damp and cold, insufficient feeding, and poor food, over-feeding (particularly with flesh), and too little exercise.

Worms have been mentioned by some authors as another cause, and certainly they are frequently present in this disease; yet it must be borne in mind that they are equally so in dogs that are over, or have never had distemper. That their presence bodes no good to the animal while under the influence of the infection (or indeed at any time), can be readily understood, but especially, I should say, during the existence of distemper: because the mucous membranes are then in an irritable condition, and these pests are not likely to reduce, but to increase that irritation, and produce — what is to be dreaded at all times, but doubly so in distemper — a fit. The condition of the patient then justifying it, (I qualify it thus, because there are circumstances under which it would be unwise to administer the drugs usually given for this purpose,) the sooner the worms are expelled the better. As a vermifuge, the areca nut is least harmful; turpentine, at other times most valuable, must be used with great caution here.

Teething has been affirmed as another cause of this disease, but here again the assumption has probably taken place from dogs at that period of their lives being most liable to distemper. An irritability of system and a degree of inflammatory fever is undoubtedly established at that crisis; and such a condition may render the subject more liable to contract the disease, if brought in contact with it; but certainly not otherwise, any more than the same process can produce in human beings measles, chicken-pox, or scarlet fever.

The period of incubation is usually from one to three weeks, and the duration of the malady may be a week, or two or three months.


The premonitory ones are: A heavy sleepy look about the face, nose hot and dry, a disinclination for food, shivering, arched back, and more or less lassitude. In from two to three days a watery discharge takes place from eyes and nose, the animal frequently sneezes, and this is followed by coughing, retching, and vomiting. The discharge from the eyes- and nose soon becomes purulent, the eyelids are inflamed and swollen, the breathing is accelerated, the inclination for warmth more evident, and the prostration greater.


Prompt and judicious treatment, in a case of this kind, will generally be attended with success. Immediately the first of the foregoing symptoms are observed, the patient should be placed in a dry, but not too warm atmosphere, and the habitation — if in the kennel — well drained and disinfected.

With regard to medicinal agents, a mild emetic is at the onset advisable, as —

Antim. Tart……………………. 1 — 3 grains.


Antim. Tart. + Calomel ……………….. aa 1 grain.

A good household emetic is a teaspoonful each of mustard and salt in a little warm water: its action is speedy and safe, and it fulfils all the purposes required.

The favourite draught of syrup of buckthorn and castor-oil, is not always commendable; but in the majority of cases of this kind it is beneficial, and should follow the emetic within a short time. When the catarrhal symptoms advance, and coughing takes place, I recommend the insertion of a small seton in front of the chest; this is to be daily dressed with mild digestive ointment, and not removed so long as bronchial irritation is present. Stimulants, combined with tonics, are also required at this period. Either of the following forms may be used:

Spts. Aether. Nit…………………. 4 drachms.

Tinct. Gentian Co………………. 4 drachms.

Aqua Menth……………………. 1½ ounce.

A teaspoonful three times a day for a terrier; double the quantity for a large dog, in the same quantity of linseed tea.


Port Wine …………………… 1 teaspoonful.

Quinine Sulph………………. 1 grain.

With the same directions.

The food should be light and nutritious — as milk, mutton-broth, or beef-tea deprived of its fat. If the patient refuses to take anything, meat nearly raw, chopped small, and made into balls and administered, will afford the best means of support. When the catarrhal symptoms have subsided and recovery commences, cod-liver oil and iron materially assists in hastening the process. The dose is a teaspoonful of the former and five mimims of the latter for a small dog, double the quantity for a large one, twice a day. The natural diet to be gradually introduced as strength returns. I must not omit to observe that it is highly important that the discharge from the eyes and nose should be frequently and carefully removed, especially from the former; otherwise, ulceration of the eyelids, conjunctiva, and even the eye itself, is apt to take place, and not unfrequently results in total loss of vision. A daily application of some mild astringent — as five grains of alum to one ounce of water — will assist in preventing ulceration, by counteracting the relaxed condition of the mucous membrane and secretory glands.

If, however, ulcers have already formed, warm fomentations with milk and water, the avoidance of glare (as the sympathetic inflammation is often very great, and the parts peculiarly sensitive to light), and the use of either of the following lotions, may with benefit be adopted:

  1. Tinct. Myrrh Sim…………………. 20 drops.

Sol. Alumen ……………………… 1 ounce.

Aqua Distil………………………. 10 ounces.


  1. Zinc Sulph. or Plumbi Acetat…… 1 scruple.

Aqua Distil………………………. 10 ounces.


  1. Nitrate of Silver ………………… 4 grains.

Aqua Distil………………………. 1 ounce.

The second and third forms are more applicable when fungoid growths succeed the ulcerative process.

When the eyes remain weak after recovery from distemper, with opacity of vision, a seton inserted at the back of the ears, and daily smeared with stimulating ointment, is of great benefit. The time for its removal is to be regulated according to the condition of the eyes; here the third form of lotion is useful. Frequently small circular depressions present themselves on the cornea, which, if neglected, assume an ulcerated condition, and extend to the anterior chamber of the eye. In such cases I have found a little calomel daily blown on the surface of the eye, attended with the greatest success.

I will now proceed to speak of distemper in some of its more complicated forms.

It not unfrequently happens, particularly in house pets, whose diminutive bodies are foolishly and unnaturally clothed in miniature horse apparel, from their susceptibility to cold, or from not being observed in time, that the catarrhal symptoms increase suddenly in intensity, bronchitis sets in, and pneumonia speedily supervenes. The hot, rapid, gasping breath, and unmistakable mucous rattle of the former, with, on auscultation, the rasping crepitating rale in the latter, the sunken eye, jerking and increased heart-beats, haggard face, dilated nostrils, and mouth drawn back at the angles, soon inform the practical man where the mischief is located.

A seton, if not already inserted, should be placed immediately in front of the chest, and its action excited as quickly as possible. Turpentine is, I think, the best agent for this purpose.

Hot linseed-meal poultices, applied to the sides, are exceedingly beneficial. They should be covered by a handkerchief brought under the girth, and tied over the back, but not too tightly, so as to compress the walls of the chest. These should be repeatedly renewed, and followed, if the animal is not relieved in six hours, by mustard plasters.

With regard to internal remedies, diffusible stimulants are best adapted to such cases. I recommend the administration, to a small dog, of a teaspoonful of brandy and water (equal parts of each), with two — four drops of chlorodyne, every hour; double the quantity for a full-sized terrier, treble for a large dog.

Beef-tea, mutton-broth, or milk in which plain biscuit or bread has been soaked and broken down, should be given with a spoon, unless voluntarily taken, two or three times during the day.

If there appears danger of suffocation, emetics may be administered until vomiting is induced. The ipecacuanha wine in some cases answers well — dose from fifteen to thirty drops in a little warm water.

When the acute symptoms have subsided, which the breathing becoming less laboured and panting, the heart’s action steadier, pulse less frequent and softer, and an occasional deep-drawn sigh will denote, the brandy may be given at longer intervals, the chlorodyne suspended, and the tincture of iron substituted in five, ten, or fifteen drops, in proportion to the size of the dog. The body must be kept warm, but fresh air is throughout absolutely necessary; therefore ample ventilation, without draught, should be allowed. This is a point on which I am most particular. Often and often again have I found my little patient, through the mistaken kindness of its fair owner, smothered in shawls before a hot fire, and almost totally deprived of one of the great essentials to recovery — the inhalation of fresh and cool air. As veterinarians, we are by this time all thoroughly aware of the importance of this great principle in the treatment of catarrhal diseases in the lower animals; and in proportion to that knowledge, so has our success in treatment been greater; so that diseases of this type are now few and far between, whereas they were once rife and fatal.

As the symptoms continue to abate, the nourishment of the diet can be increased, and cod-liver oil may be given as previously described.

When distemper becomes associated with jaundice, it is commonly called the ” yellows,” and treated by kennel-men and quacks as a distinct disease; though I need hardly say that is is but the result of general derangement of the system, consequent on improperly treated or neglected distemper.

The symptoms are a yellow tinge of the eyes, visible mucous membranes, and thin parts of the integument — as inside the thighs, forearms and ears, and that covering the abdomen; pain on pressure over the region of the liver, and sometimes enlargement, with hardness; the faeces pale and hard, or soft and greenish, and mingled with mucus; the urine high-coloured, hot, and occasionally turbid.

The patient may or may not exhibit catarrhal symptoms •with jaundice. In distemper it most frequently follows the former.

A mild dose of aloes and calomel is generally at first advisable, but in the administration of this we must be guided by the other symptoms. If the catarrh is still present, or the bowels irritable, aloes must certainly be avoided. Five-grain doses of hydrarg cum creta may be given daily to a medium-sized clog; and if this is found to be unattended with benefit, sulphurous acid — from three to ten drops in a little cold “water — may be tried, as it is frequently given with success. The addition of quinine is often useful.

A mustard poultice applied over the region of the liver in severe cases, affords considerable relief, and at the onset is of especial service.

The diet should be plain and light; milk, with one-third its quantity of lime-water, is most suitable until an improvement in the symptoms is observed.

When the disease extends to the bowels — which, in neglected cases of distemper, or even in those most assiduously attended, it frequently does — a violent form of diarrhoea or dysentery sets in. The faeces are dark, streaked with blood, and offensive; the patient rapidly wastes, has a sickening odour, and speedily dies, often under even the most energetic and judicious treatment. A mild dose of oil (linseed or salad) is generally at first advisable, and in three hours this is best followed up •with antacids and astringents:

  1. Sodse Bicarb…………. 10 grains,

Catechu Pulv……….. 10 grains,

OpiiPulv……………. 2 grains:

1 Pill or Powder.

  1. Cupri Sulpli……. 5 to 10 grains,

OpiiPulv……………. 2 grains:


  1. Tannic Acid……… 3 to 5 grains,

Opii Pulv……………… 2 grains,

Zingib………………. 10 grains:


In severe cases, the last prescription (No. 3) is the most effectual. Should the purging continue, and symptoms of pain be manifested, hot linseed-meal poultices applied to the abdomen afford relief, and materially assist in checking enteritis. Starch enemas are likewise serviceable.

The diet should consist of strong beef-tea, in which isinglass or gum arabic has been dissolved in proportions to make it sufficiently mucilaginous to shield the living membrane of the stomach and intestines.

With regard to the so-called “distemper fits,” it is almost needless to remark that they are always a dangerous sign, being seldom limited to one attack. Sometimes they appear as the forerunner of distemper, but more frequently as an accompaniment, and when the patient is low and wasted.

Immediately symptoms of cerebral disturbance are observed, a seton should be inserted in the occipital region, and action excited as quickly as possible. Let the animal freely breathe fresh air, and administer brandy and water; and if diarrhoea is still present, suspend the opium, but continue the antacids and astringents, and give the brandy with beaten egg or other mucilage. During the seizure, neat brandy may be rubbed on the gums, and ammonia applied to the nostrils. The food should be nutritious, and all other means adopted which are calculated to impart tone to the system.

In protracted cases of distemper, when the system, as it were, has been taxed to the utmost, and the patient reduced almost to the lowest ebb of existence, a cuticular eruption makes its appearance. This generally, in the first instance, assumes a pustular form, and these pustules in the course of a few days break, and leave by their exudation a crust or scab. Either the whole or a portion of the body only may be involved. I have seen a dog literally naked, with the exception of the head, ears, and feet.

This condition is not unfrequently mistaken by the would-be “knowing ones” for mange, and treated as such. (I well remember a case in point which came under my own observation — the subject being a Skye terrier. The case, when first brought to me, was one of distemper, associated with pneumonia (the animal being thought consumptive); later on dysentery set in. Several times the animal was on the verge of death, and it was only by my persuasion that he was allowed to continue under treatment. Ultimately he took a turn for the better, and almost simultaneously the eruption described broke out; the stench emitted after it made its appearance was simply abominable. In a few days every vestige of hair, with the exception of that on the head, ears, and lower part of the legs, came off. He continued in this state for several weeks, the skin being perfectly clean and whole, but very glazed. In every other respect he improved daily, and gained flesh. The owner and another gentleman maintained that the dog had contracted mange; nor could I convince them to the contrary. In vain I argued the difference of symptoms, and that as the system gained tone so would the patient regain his coat. But no: the dog was removed, and placed out to nurse in the hands of a dog-breaker — he also being of opinion it was mange; and this worthy individual, according to his own account, brought away that which the patient never in my possession possessed — a hatful of worms. Some time afterwards I met the gentleman to whom the animal belonged, and was asked if I recognised the dog he had with him. Certainly, as my old patient, which he proved to be, I did not; for he was clothed in an entirely new coat, and of an entirely different colour — dark, nearly black, stubbly hair having taken the place of the original silver-grey — the result, in all probability, of the dressing applied to the sensitive and weak skin. In this instance the breaker claimed the cure which nature had wrought)

There is, however, no analogy between the two. The distemper eruption and loss of coat is simply owing to suspension of the secretions necessary to the growth and support of the hair; or if not actual suspension of these secretions, then from such an exceedingly low state of vitality of the surface of the body, that life and health in the appendages of certain parts cannot be maintained.

Occasionally this eruptive stage is the forerunner of a return to health, but much more frequently it is the precursor of a fatal issue.

At this period of the disease, tonics are especially indicated, and everything in the shape of diet, exercise, cleanliness, etc., calculated to promote vigour.

When chorea or paralysis co-exist with distemper, remedies specially adapted to either must be used in addition to, or in conjunction with, the distemper treatment. Strychnia or mix vomica is undoubtedly the most effectual restorative agent in such cases.

It would be superfluous on my part, so far as scientific persons are concerned, were I to hint at the care required in the administration of this drug. I will merely observe, for the benefit of non-professional persons, that cases have fallen under my notice in which death had resulted from irregularity in the time of giving such medicine, and more particularly where the dose had been for some time gradually increased until it had reached more than treble the primary quantity. Forgotten for some hours, or it may be a day, and then given perhaps fasting, a fatal issue is pretty nearly certain to-follow.

When there is any difficulty in administering the medicine in the form of pills, the liquor strychnia may be conveniently substituted.

Local remedies in chorea and paralysis are often very beneficial. I have found setons exceedingly valuable. If the convulsive movements of the former, or the numbness of the latter, are confined to the hind parts, the seton requires inserting across the loins; if general, at the back of the head and across the loins. Counter-irritation along the spine is also serviceable, and galvanism is occasionally useful.

Though, in principle, the hot hath, from its relaxing properties, may appear wrong, it is nevertheless, in chorea, sometimes attended with good results. It certainly affords relief when the convulsive twitchings are excessive, and so far I have observed no after evil from its use. I should not advise its adoption when distemper also existed. Quietude, except when the patient is necessarily disturbed, is very essential; and attention to the bed being dry, and the excretions regular, are also matters of importance in chorea and paralytic affections.

When abatement of the twitchings, with returning strength, is observed, a favourable issue may be expected; but it is advisable not to discontinue the medicine so long as any nervous complication remains; afterwards it should be gradually, not suddenly, suspended.

As soon as the patient is able to walk, a short exercise each day may be given with benefit. The fresh air acts as a tonic, new scenery and objects divert the mind, while exercise encourages the natural habits and functions of the animal.

Tincture of iron and cod-liver oil are advisable after the disuse of the strychnia, until recovery is complete. The diet throughout should be nourishing and digestible, and forcibly administered if the patient refuses to take it. Constipation, which is frequently present in chorea and paralysis, is best relieved by enemas.

With regard to preventive measures for distemper, I have only to observe that clue attention to hygienics is the only and best preventive. Vaccination has been extolled and condemned — condemned justly, inasmuch as there is not a shadow of analogy between canine distemper and small-pox. The introduction of equine lymph has also been tried, and in like manner extolled, but where again is the resemblance between the disease known as “grease” in the horse, from which the lymph is supplied, and canine distemper? There is not the least similarity in the character of one and the other. Good management, the clog not being brought in contact with the infective agents, or it may possibly be from possessing a degree of insusceptibility that the malady is not easily contracted — has far more to do with immunity from distemper than the imaginary power of vaccination, be the lymph what it may.

Lately, efforts have been made, though unsuccessfully, to establish an identity between distemper and human typhoid fever: for, as Professor Axe pertinently remarks, ” Did distemper in the dog possess the property of communicating typhoid fever to man, it is difficult to understand how myself and others have so long escaped infection. During the past twelve years I have examined large numbers of distempered clogs immediately after death, and thus exposed myself to the emanations from every secretion and excretion of the body; but in no case have I suffered the least constitutional disturbance. This illustration, it may be argued, is worthless in itself, and is capable of explanation on the ground of insusceptibility; but the same remarks apply to scores of others who have been exposed from time to time in a similar manner.” In regard to the propagation of the typhoid contagium, Dr. Budd says: “If the poison from which typhoid fever springs were capable of being bred elsewhere than in the human body, it would surely be in the bodies of animals which are made of flesh and blood like ourselves, and from whose substance we draw sustenance for our own. And yet it appears to be almost certain that this is not the case. In the most virulent outbreaks of typhoid fever, there is no evidence that the domestic animals which gather round the fever-stricken dwellings ever take the disease. At Cheffcombe, while nearly all the human inmates of the infected homestead were laid low by the poison, the clogs and cats which belonged to the house, and the poultry, pigs, horses, and cattle which thronged the yard, continued to enjoy perfect health. Yet the pond from which the latter drank was being continually polluted by a drain which received the whole bulk of the intestinal discharges from the fever patients! (This is strong evidence: sufficiently so to be conclusive. — J. W. H) The statement of ‘ H. H.’ that the symptoms of distemper in the dog and typhoid fever in man are ‘alike,’ is true only so far as refers to the febrile state. The specific phenomena of the latter most surely find no counterpart in the symptomatology of the former. It is only in the coutinued type of the fever that any identity can really be said to exist. If we examine the main features of the two affections, we find at once a broad and unmistakable difference in their clinical and pathological equivalents.

“Typhoid fever is an eruptive disease. Its course and duration are definite, and the lesions resulting from the fever process are localised and specific. In distemper of the dog not one of these essential characters can be applied. The pathological changes of the latter have no specific form or seat. Universal congestion more or less intense, local inflammation, blood extravasations, and serous exudation of varying extent, constitute the principal post-mortem phenomena.” (From the ” Veterinarian,” Feb. 1867)

Selections from the book The management and diseases of the dog by Hill, John Woodroffe (London, 1878)

Distemper in dogs have been mentioned in 1889

The term distemper, whose literal meaning is a deranged condition of the animal economy, is particularly applied to animals of the brute creation. To the clog, when afflicted with that disease somewhat resembling typhus fever in the human race. As canine pathology has been given more attention in the past few years than formerly, we have now become quite familiar with the nature of the disease and the remedies indicated; consequently the loss by death is comparatively small when proper treatment and attention are employed. Microscopic analysis of the blood during distemper shows the existence of bacilli life. In early days, those dogs that were fortunate enough to survive this disease, did so merely through strength of constitution and not from the assistance of any remedial agents, as utter ignorance of the subject then prevailed. The disease doubtless then appeared in a much milder form than that with which our present highly bred animals are afflicted.

Owing to more or less inbreeding that has been indulged in to intensify certain form and characteristics in dogs of most all breeds, constitution has to some extent been sacrificed. Animals bred in this way, are in consequence, less able to resist or combat disease than those with less pretentious claims to family distinction.

Distemper in Dogs: Causes

Bad sanitary conditions, crowded or poorly drained kennels, exposure to dampness, insufficient or over feeding, improper diet, lack of fresh air and exercise, all conduce to the development of distemper. It is contagious, infectious, and will frequently appear spontaneously without any apparent cause, in certain localities assuming an epidemic form. Age is no exemption from distemper, though it more frequently attacks young animals than adults. Very few dogs pass through life without having it at some period. Many people are of the belief that their dogs have contracted distemper while being exhibited at bench shows. This may be the case in some few instances, but when the veterinary surgeon in charge is efficient and attentive to the discharge of his duties, there is little fear of contagion. Distemper following the exhibition of young dogs, particularly when sent from a distance, is due to their contracting cold in transportation either to or from a show, the disease following as a natural consequence, though the strain on their nervous systems may help towards its development.

Any dog having attained the age of one year, if in vigorous health, is then attacked with distemper, I know of no reason why he should not recover, providing the proper methods are employed, though occasionally a case in which numerous complications occur, such as inflammation of the bowels, fits, chorea, paralysis, jaundice and pneumonia, or broncho-pneumonia that will resist all the science of the veterinary profession. As a matter of economy, I would suggest to dog owners, especially those intending having them field broken, to subject their puppies at the age of one year, if in robust health to the contagion of distempered animals, with the object of their taking the disease, expecting them to recover. If they come through all right they may then be broken. To have a dog die of distemper after having expended from $100 to $200 on his education is, to say the least, very unsatisfactory. Again, a dog’s sense of smell is sometimes so seriously impaired by the disease as to render him ever after useless in the field.

Distemper in Dogs: Symptoms

In early stages, dullness, loss of appetite, sneezing, chills, fever, undue moisture of the nose, congestion of the eyes, nausea, a gagging cough accompanied by the act of vomiting, though rarely anything is voided, if anything, it will be a little mucus. Thirst, a desire to lie in a warm place and rapid emaciation. This is quickly followed by a muco-purulent discharge from the eyes and nose, later, perhaps ulceration of either eyes or eye-lids. Labored respiration, constipation or obstinate diarrhoea, usually the latter, which frequently runs into inflammation of the bowels There is inflammation of the mucous membrane of the entire alimentary canal, and all the organs in time becoming more or less involved. A pustulous eruption on the skin is by some authors considered a favorable symptom, but to me it is evidence of a vitiated condition of the blood. In some cases many of the above symptoms will be absent, the bowels being the first parts attacked. The following which sometimes, but not necessarily occurring with distemper, I classify as complications, viz.: Fits, Chorea, Paralysis, Pneumonia or Broncho-Pneumonia, Jaundice, and Inflammation of the Bowels, and will require treatment independent of any one remedy that may be given.

Distemper Fits differ from ordinary epilepsy inasmuch as the animal does not rush about violently, but will lie prostrate upon one side, champing the jaws and frothing slightly from the mouth, the duration of which is indefinite — perhaps lasting for hours. This I consider the worst feature in distemper. In ordinary epilepsy, the attack usually subsides in from 10 to 20 minutes. The latter will be more thoroughly entered into later on under the heading of Fits.

Chorea makes itself apparent by a constant twitching of the muscles. It may be local or general. Usually yields to treatment if taken at the start, but when of long standing, it is almost useless to attempt doing anything for it. I have known bitches so afflicted, to recover on being bred, the trouble disappearing entirely.

Paralysis in distemper is usually only partial, affecting the spine and hind quarters, causing loss of power, inability to rise, etc. It will first be observed by an uncertain wavering gait behind.

In Pneumonia the respiration is quick and oppressed, the abdominal muscles being employed in the act. An occasional cough, not violent, a frothy expectoration either white or of a rusty color. If the ear is placed against the right side over the region of the lungs a crackling sound or crepitation may be detected. In Broncho-Pneumonia the mucus rattle will be observed.

Jaundice will be marked by the following symptoms, viz., uneasiness while sleeping, loss of appetite, thirst. The foeces dark and thin at first, later on dry and grayish in color; colic pains. Membranes of the eyes and mouth, also the urine of a deep yellow shade.

Inflammation of the Bowels is indicated by extreme thirst, tenderness of the abdomen, colic, pains, mucus and bloody discharges from the bowels.

Distemper in Dogs: Treatment

The animal should be placed in warm, dry quarters, and hygienic conditions strictly observed. There should be sufficient ventilation without draughts.

With puppies I would advise at the start giving Glover’s Vermifuge, as nearly all have worms, which add greatly to the irritation of stomach present in distemper. The bedding should be changed daily and the apartment disinfected two or three times a week. For this purpose I would recommend Platt’ s Chlorides, as I consider it the best disinfectant made, being a combination of chlorides put together on scientific principles. It is perfectly odorless and not like the many so-called disinfectants, which are merely strong odors overpowering less strong ones.

Feed frequently on easily digested, nutritious diet, such as beef-tea or mutton broth, thickened with rice. Let all food be slightly cool and keep fresh, cold water at all times within reach of the animal. If constipation be present give warm water and glycerine enemas, and an occasional dose of castor oil if necessary. Should the bowels become too much relaxed with any tendency to inflammation, feed entirely on farinaceous food, arrowroot, farina or corn-starch with well boiled milk, as even beef tea is somewhat of an irritant to the stomach and bowels. Carnrick’s prepared food, which is lactated, is an excellent thing in these cases as it gives no work to the digestive apparatus, and is at once assimilated. Glover’s Diarrhoea Cure should be given if necessity demands it. When symptoms of distemper first appear Glover’s Distemper Cure should be given and persisted in for several days after all symptoms have disappeared to insure perfect recovery. An animal may have so far recovered that the owner considers it unnecessary to give any further medicine, the suspension of which will often result in a relapse, recovery from which is uncertain. In the treatment of distemper, one great object is to keep up the general strength, so in case of extreme debility a little whisky in milk or milk punches may be allowed.

The eyes should be bathed with warm water two or three times a day to keep them free of mucus, it will besides help to keep down inflammation. Should film form over the eyes or ulceration of the eyes or eyelids occur, Glover’s Eye Lotion may be used with benefit. If at any time the accumulation of mucus in the air passages should be so great as to interfere with breathing, steaming the head will soften, detach and cause it to flow freely, thus giving relief, or in very urgent cases if the animal is comparatively strong, a mild emetic may be administered.

In the occurrence of Fits, Glover’s Cure for Fits should be given and a seton inserted at the back of the head. In Chorea, Arsenic or Bromide of Zinc will be useful. In Paralysis, Strychnine combined with general tonics should be given, and Glover’s Liniment rubbed well in the entire length of the back, repeating night and morning until blister is produced. Electricity is here also strongly recommended.

In Pneumonia, Carbonate or Muriate of Ammonia, combined with expectorants should be given, also hot applications made externally, and alcoholic stimulants administered.

In Jaundice, give Glover’s Liver Pills twice daily and apply mustard plaster over the region of the liver.

In recommending the use of Glover’s Distemper Cure I do not claim that it is a panacea for all ills, but do maintain that it will cure any case of simple distemper when given in time.

Selections from the book Diseases of the dog by Glover, H. Clay (New York, 1889)

Distemper in dogs have been mentioned in 1911

The definition of the word “distemper” describes a disease which is peculiar to the canine race, and it is caused by a specific poison which finds its way into the system, as a rule, through the lungs and air-passages. It generally attacks young animals and runs its course as a catarrhal fever, affecting all the mucous membranes of the body, and is almost invariably accompanied with certain nervous symptoms, and pustular skin eruptions.


Distemper is a disease which is contagious in the highest degree, and is only communicated by infection. It does not seem to have been recognized or described by the ancients or the writers of the middle ages. An animal affected with distemper can remain but a short time in any locality and affect every animal there, or it may be transmitted from a person or object that has been in contact with an affected animal. As a rule, few young animals escape distemper, generally contracting it before they are a year old, and dogs over that age very rarely take the disease. That, however, may be accounted for from the fact that dogs having arrived at that age have either come in contact with the disease previous to that and they have had it in a mild form, or the system was in such a condition, that they did not contract it. The disease affects animals but once during life, although a few exceptions are presented where animals have contracted it a second time. As a rule, delicate, weak, poorly-fed animals (vegetable diet), or animals which have been affected by some catarrhal disorder of the respiratory mucous membranes, contract the disease in its acute form; while, on the other hand, dogs which have lots of exercise, especially animals in the country or small cities, are mildly affected with the disease, and the rate of mortality is much less.

Distemper exists in all countries of the world. In the large cities it is found at any season of the year, while in the country it is generally more prevalent during the warm weather. The specific poison of distemper is not definitely known. It is undoubtedly a fixed and volatile virus (By a “fixed and volatile virus” we understand a fixed virus that when secreted in the lungs, is carried out in fine division, in the particles of moisture in the expired air, and easily held in suspension in an atmosphere that contains a slight quantity of humidity) which enters the system by the mouth and nose, and it exerts its first influence on the respiratory passages. Vaccination of young animals by means of the mucous secretions from animals affected with the disease has been tried, and, as a rule, reproduces the disease.

Semmer believes that he has definitely defined the contagious germ in the blood, and also found it in the lungs, liver, and spleen, in the form of small, dagger-shaped microbes, which he calls the “bacilli of distemper.” Rabe has found in the secretion of the nose and connective tissue, also in the blood, small cocci, which accumulate in heaps, or wTere connected together in small groups of three or four in a line, or they may hang together like a string of beads. These he considers the specific contagious matter of distemper; but Friedberger does not agree with this theory. Mathis found in the contents of the pustule a diplococcus which could be colored with fuchsin. He used bouillon cultures of this diplococcus for the inoculation of ten dogs. These dogs were affected by symptoms which resembled very closely those of distemper. Marcone and Meloni found a micrococcus in a dog which was affected by distemper, and considered that this was the true pathogenic agent, as it produced the skin eruptions, broncho-pneumonia, and gastro-enteritis in dogs which had been inoculated with pure cultures. Legrain and Jaquet obtained pure cultures of micrococci, when held in certain media, from fluid obtained from the pustules in the exanthema of distemper. These were gathered together in the form of diplococci and chains. In dogs vaccinated with these cultures only the skin eruption, with the development of pustules, was seen, but the subjects so treated seemed to enjoy immunity from the disease. Millais made cultures from the nasal excretion of the dogs affected by distemper upon gelatinous media, of two different bacilli, which mixed together, on inoculation, produced distemper. Galli-Valerio has isolated ovoid bacilli, 1.25-2.5μ. in length, which grows freely in gelatin. These he found in abundance in the lungs and central nervous system, but did not find them in the blood. The inoculation of the cultivations produced characteristic distemper in puppies, but did not give the same results in adult dogs. Jensen is of the opinion that the pneumonia of distemper is caused by a streptococcus, but he has found in the bronchial mucous membranes other bacteria, particularly the bacterium coli. Babes and Bazanesco, in two cases isolated from the lung, liver and blood, found a very fine short motile bacillus, about 0.3 to 0.4μ. long. Xine young dogs were inoculated and seven died in from ten to eighteen dayc of typical distemper, and the various organs contained the bacilli inoculated. Zelinski, Xeucki, and Karapinski, maintain they are positive distemper is communicable to man, and give as the mediary cause a microorganism similar to the white staphylococcus of Resenbach, but differing from the same in its bio-chemical properties. Taty and Jacquine have found in the spine and cord of a dog that died of nervous distemper a peculiar diplococcus to which they ascribe important pathogenic action. Jess cultivated a bacillus, found in the conjune-tival, nasal and other mucous membranes and organs of the body, which was 1.3μ. long and 0.6μ. wide. Injections of the culture were made both intraperitoneally and subcutaneously; three or four days afterwards a fever appeared which was accompanied by great flow of tears, and diarrhoea, and in the vicinity of the inoculated spot there appeared isolated red spots. Petropawloski found, in all cases of distemper, a bacillus which resembled that described by Galli-Valeris, and also that described by Babes and Barzanesco but differed from the first by its negative action to Gram’s coloring method and, from the latter by its easy cultivation on potato. Mari thinks that the baccilli of Petropowlowsky as well as those of Schantyro are in all probability coli-bacilli and really not related in any way etiologically to the baccilli of distemper. Casol claims to have found a micrococcus, which is both isolated and in groups, and claims it is colored by Gram’s method. From these he made pure cultivations and transmitted it successfully. Lignieres places distemper among the hemorrhagic septicaemias and calls it Pasteurellosis canum, and is due to a particularly virulent bi-polar bacillus (Pasteurella canis). Trasbot; on the other hand, thinks that the microorganism cultivated by Lignieres is a pneumo-inciter and only produces the secondary phenomena in the disease and is not the original cause of the development of the disease. Wunschheim has isolated a short rod, very similar to the bacteria of chicken cholera. Piorkowski found in the spleen and lung a small staff bacillus, the cultivations of which when inoculated, developed the disease and death in two or three weeks. Ceramicola cultivated an ovoid polymorphus taken from clogs which had died, particularly of virulent distemper, and the bacteria possessed all the morphological properties of the inciter of hemorrhagic septicaemia, and the animal inoculated died with all the characteristics of true distemper. Carre is of the opinion that none of the organisms visible to the microscope can be considered the exciters of distemper in the dog; he took nasal mucus from an infected dog, passed it through a filter, the filtrate when spread on different nutritive media remained sterile, and the defibrinated blood of an animal inoculated with the filtrate produced fever of the nostril and pustules. This blood was also spread on various nutritive media and also remained sterile. Cadiot and Breton and others are of the opinion that in distemper there is an ultra-microscopical organism which can be filtered, and with this microbe there is also a microorganism which may have some influence on the course of the disease (foetid bacillus and Pasteurella canis).

Direct vaccinating methods have been practised by various practitioners. For instance, Trasbot transferred secretions from the nose and pustules of animals affected with the disease, by means of a number of small incisions in the abdominal wall of healthy young animals. The disease appeared after eight days.

Krajewski vaccinated numerous young animals with secretions of the nose and pustules, these inoculations being on the mucous membrane of the nose, and under the skin, and arrived at the following conclusions:

  1. The contagious germ of distemper is confined to the secretion of the nose and eyes, and the blood.
  2. The germ does not lose its virulent properties in any degree when dried at a normal temperature, or frozen at 18° to 20° of cold. However, its virulence becomes attenuated when kept for any length of time in a dry place.
  3. The disease, when it is produced by vaccinating, runs a very mild course, and kills, as a rule, from 10 to 15 per cent, while the ordinary disease kills from 32 to 70 per cent. Laosson has obtained the same results after vaccinating ninety-eight animals, and found also that the contents of these pustules are generally inactive, and that the nasal secretion loses its virulence after eight days. Friedberger’s observations are diametrically opposite, for he contends that he has caused infection by means of the contents of the pustules. He also recognized in cases where the disease originated from vaccination that there was a short intervening stage of incubation and, as a rule, was much less in intensity, ran a very rapid course, and that the groups of pustules were confined to the region of vaccination.

Schantyr has lately published certain observations concerning the microbes of distemper. He agrees with Piitz that distemper of the dog resembles distemper in horses to a remarkable degree, and his theory of the subject is that distemper may be classified into three diseases, according to the presence of three microorganisms of different characters. These diseases are: Abdominal typhus, true distemper of the dog, and canine typhoid. Their clinical as well as their pathological symptoms have a great similarity with one another, and it is only with a careful microscopical examination that the specific microorganisms can be separated. The bacilli of typhoid (small, slender bacilli, which are almost exactly like the typhoid bacilli in man) are generally found separate in the blood, while the bacilli of distemper (small, and somewhat curved) and the bacilli of typhoid (typhoid are very small and slender) are generally arranged in groups. The bacilli of typhus are hard to color with fuchsin, and become colorless with Gram’s test. This is not the case with distemper and the bacillus of typhoid. Typhus and typhoid bacilli give characteristic cultures upon agar, gelatin, and potato, while the bacillus of distemper is extremely hard to cultivate under any circumstances. Megnin divides distemper into two groups. Cadiot and Breton describe another contagious broncho-pneumonia, but present no pustular rash, probably being infectious bronchial catarrh.

Preventive Vaccination

In the last century numerous attempts have been made to find some inoculating material which would produce immunity to distemper, either entire immunity or at least for a certain period, and the results of certain observers have been mentioned already, notably Krayewski. Ligniere, who considers distemper should be classed among the hemorrhagic septicaemins, recommends a serum which he prepares and calls polyvalent immune serum. Phisalix vaccinates with greatly diluted cultures of the bacilli of distemper. The immunizing action of the vaccine has been confirmed by Grey, Spicer, Howtaker, who claim that this vaccine when injected into the animal at the time it is affected with the disease has to a certain extent the property of lessening both the intensity and course of the disease. Ligniere, Jewell, Hobday, Parker and a committee appointed in England to test this vaccine obtained unfavorable results. An immunizing agent called antidistemper serum, prepared by the Jenner Institute of London, has been sold commercially. Meyer, who has used a large quantity of the; serum, reports that after the animal is vaccinated it produces a mild form of distemper which is catarrhal in form, and after the acute symptoms disappear there may be nervous debility, unsteady gait, and in one case the animal became deaf. The vaccinated dogs, when brought in contact afterward with dogs affected with acute distemper, either did not contract it at all or they had a very mild attack. This scrum injected into an animal affected by distemper seems to have in certain cases a decided beneficial effect.

An antidistemper serum prepared by the bacteriological institute of Piorkowski in Berlin, does not seem to produce the results claimed for it. This serum is recommended not only for immunization (5 to 10 c.c. is injected subcutaneously in any part of the body, the best location being the neck) but also for curing the disease (in doses of 20 to 50 c.c), and according to the statement of Piorkowski 85 per cent, of animals having both catarrhal and nervous forms are cured.

Baden used a large quantity of this serum and came to the conclusion that in some cases it produced very good results, but these were generally in the mild catarrhal gastric forms and when the treatment was commenced immediately after the onset of the disease. In more acute cases when the disease had gone on for some time, and there were cither convulsions or chronic twitchings or catarrhal diarrhoea, the injection of the serum produced no effect whatever.

Wagner and Binkannner declare it is valueless, while Lange and Creutz claim to have had very good results when used in the early stages of the disease. Opinions are also divided in regard to other serums, for instance that of Cans, as well as what is known as Dutchman’s serum, obtained from animals fed with yeast. This latter serum is used only as a therapeutic agent; some observers claim good results from it.

Numerous tests have been made by the writer, but it cannot be said positively that the results are such as to say the serums are of any practical value, and when we consider that up to the present time the active agent in the production of the disease has not been definitely isolated, or its actual nature and structure known, we can hardly cultivate a serum to combat it.

Some of the agents mentioned as being specific for distemper are Gurnino (ganglionary serum) which has not been found to produce any beneficial results. Yeast and yeast preparations, furonculine (distemper antigurmine, creolin, etc.), seem to have some influence in controlling intestinal catarrh. Calomel has also a certain effect in the early stages of gastric distemper. Creolin inhalations are good in pulmonary and bronchial forms of distemper, as also inhalations of benzoin and balsam of Peru. Trichloride of iodine which Ellerman, do Brim and others injected subcutaneously, 3 to 5 cm. in a solution of 1 to 100, has a very favorable influence when administered in the early stages of the disease, but in the more advanced stages of the disease it has little or no influence. Ichthargan in 3 per cent, solution, iodipin, tallianine, 1 to 5 cm. intravenously.


No special therapeutic treatment can be given for distemper — that is, no agent has been found up to this time which has the property of destroying or rendering harmless the specific micro-organisms present in this disease. Certain antiseptic and antibacterial remedies, like quinine, salicylic acid, antipyrine, etc., may generally reduce the fever, but they produce no influence on the general course of the disease. The use of agents for reducing the temperature is objectionable, as they not only deprive us of the symptom of temperature, which is of the greatest importance during the course of the disease, but cause more or less depression of the heart. According to Frohner’s experiments, calomel is supposed to have a slight claim as a universal agent, but this is on the same order as black coffee, which was formerly advocated by Trasbot. Common salt has been recommended by Zippelius, and ergotin was highly recommended and frequently used a few years ago. None of these remedies, while they prove beneficial in some cases, is to be laid down as a specific for the treatment of the disease, therefore we must continue to treat it in a purely symptomatic manner. Antipyrine, which was advocated as an absolute specific, does not in the least deserve this recommendation. The diet must be easily digested food, but at the same time as nutritious as possible. Milk, bouillon, soup, and scraped raw meat (which is generally taken with a relish) have much to commend them. In grave cases where there is entire loss of appetite, we must use concentrated food, such as peptonized meat, extract of beef, and clear broth. This may be given with some mild alcoholic stimulant, wine, etc. There are some forms of extract of beef which are not to be recommended, on account of their slight nutritive value and as they also contain a large proportion of sodium salts. When the temperature rises above 40° we must try to reduce it by means of frictions of alcohol and mild antiseptics.

The ” antipyretic” treatment can only be used in rare instances in the dog. The chief medicinal agents are quinine, salicylate of sodium, antifebrine, and antipyrine. The older remedies (digitalis, veratrum, etc.) have been abandoned for some time on account of their direct action on the heart. This is also the case with kairin, thallin, and phenacetin. The writer, as a rule, does not advise the use of quinine on account of its action upon the heart.

It must be said, however, that in this disease good nursing, attention to dietetics, fresh air and cleanliness are the greatest factors in producing good results. The animal must be kept in a dry, clean, warm (not hot) well lighted and ventilated kennel, but avoid the slightest suspicion of a draught or dampness, and to prevent the spread of the disease through contagion, disinfect the place when the animal has recovered, as well as the surroundings used by the animal from time to time. The food should be substantial and easily digested, such as milk, sago, egg and milk, mutton broth and eggs, thick soups and small quantities of raw meat must be given at short intervals.

When the animal refuses to eat, he must be given food in concentrated form, such as thick meat broth, with a yolk of egg in it, extract of meat, extract of malt, luematogene, hsemo-albumen, or use some of the various extracts of beef.

To maintain the strength, or when the acute symptoms have subsided but the animal is weak, the digestion poor, or the mouth sore and solid particles of food cannot be eaten, we use concentrated food, such as some of the various meat extracts and peptonized products, commercial meat juice and liquified peptone; nutritive preparations containing albumen, such as samatose, plasmon, etc. If the stomach cannot retain food but is vomited up immediately after it is given, nutrition can be administered by means of clysters. This can be meat broth, yolks of egg, and thick starch water, to make it of enough consistency to be retained in the rectum. Very frequently by this means an animal can be carried over the grave stages of the disease, and it is surprising how long an animal’s life can be sustained by this means. Albrecht mentions one dog that had chronic nephritis, and was nourished for forty-two days by this means. In the administration of a nutritive clyster, the rectum must be first cleansed by an injection of luke-warm water, and in about ten minutes, not sooner, the nourishing clyster is given; the amount varies from a tablespoonful to a cupful, according to the size of the animal. The injection must be made slowly and carefully, care being taken not to excite the animal any more than is necessary, and when the nozzle of the injection pipe is withdrawn the anal opening must be held closed for a short time, and, if possible, elevate the hind quarters of the animal.

The following nutritive clysters are recommended:

  1. Two or three beaten up eggs, 250.0 thick bouillon.
  2. Two beaten up eggs, 200.0 concentrated bouillon and a spoonful of starch.
  3. Two beaten eggs, 10.0 peptonoids, 120.0 sherry wine, 250.0 bouillon.
  4. One beaten egg, 600.00 bouillon, 150.0 port wine, 0.5 bicarbonate of soda, 0.02 common salt, and 60.0 peptonoids.
  5. Two beaten eggs, 4.0 salt, 20.0 port wine, 250.0 milk.
  6. Two or three eggs beaten up with a little cold water, and a pinch of starch; these are laid to one side, then a tablespoonful of sugar, a half cup of milk and a wineglassful of port wine are mixed together and boiled for a short time, when it is allowed to cool. When it is nearly cold add the combination to it with a small pinch of salt, care being taken to see that the solution is not warm enough to coagulate the milk.

In the early stages of the disease, the stomach can be emptied by means of an emetic, such as the subcutaneous injections of apomorphia, antimonial wine, etc. It is a question whether an emetic by its subsequent depression does not do more harm than good. As a rule, constipation is not present and the bowels had better be left alone; if the animal commences to eat and the intestinal canal returns to its normal condition, the lower bowel will be emptied naturally without the assistance of drugs; if, however, it is necessary to evacuate the rectum, use a glycerine suppository.

Other therapeutic measures will have to be employed as the symptoms arise, and we would refer you to the diseases of the nose, larynx, bronchia, and air-passages, also to those of the stomach and intestine, particularly where there is persistent diarrhoea, and lastly diseases of the brain, spinal cord, and eyes. As a rule, no treatment should be used for the skin eruption in distemper. If any irregularity arise, however, this may be treated according to the methods recommended under Diseases of the Skin.

Conjunctivitis is generally treated by a solution of sulphate of zinc (1 to 100), or painting the diseased membranes with a solution of nitrate of silver (1 to 70). This must be followed afterward by a 1 per cent, solution of chloride of sodium. “Blennorrhcea of the eyes” should be treated by bathing the parts with some antiseptic solution, such as creolin (1 to 100), corrosive sublimate (1 to 2000), or boric acid (1 to 40), or by painting the mucous membrane by means of a camel’s hair pencil with a 2 per cent, solution of sulphate of copper. Ulceration of tire cornea should be treated with a 3 or 4 per cent, solution of boric acid. Parenchmnatous keratitis may be treated with a few drops of a 1 to 100 solution of atropine. After the acute inflammatory symptoms of the eye have subsided blowing calomel directly on the cornea produces good results.

Selections from the book Diseases of the dog and their treatment by Muller, Georg Alfred (Chicago, 1911)

Distemper in dogs have been mentioned in 1998

Distemper is a disease of the central nervous system caused by a virus. It is usually severe, and there is no certain treatment. Distemper is very contagious among all canines, not only dogs. The common signs are mattered, running eyes, a plugged, crusty nose, diarrhea, and vomiting. Chorea — twitching of a leg, one side of the body, or tail — usually develops when the disease is nearing its worst.

Distemper is often confused with rabies, also caused by a virus. There is no similarity between them. You cannot get distemper if bitten by a dog ill with distemper; you will get rabies after being bitten by a rabid dog unless you get treatment. A dog sick with distemper may be crabby, but biting is not a symptom of distemper.

Distemper may occur year-round, and it is so highly contagious that it does not even need close contact to spread. You can bring it home on your clothes, or a dog with distemper can just pass through your yard and spread the virus to your unvaccinated dog.

Treatment, once the disease has started, is often frustrating for both the owner and the veterinarian. The sick dog may look better and have signs of recovery one day but then get worse the next. Antibiotics will not cure the disease, as it is a virus, but they can prevent secondary infections, such as pneumonia, in a very stressed dog. Injections of antiserum or globulin can help some dogs.

Good nursing is very important in treating this disease. Without it most dogs will die. A dog sick with distemper will not want to eat, so it must be coaxed to eat, force-fed, or tube-fed. Also, keep the dog warm and clean. Clean the eyes and nose several times daily, treat the eyes with ophthalmic ointment, and moisten the nose with mild petroleum jelly. A dog having convulsions must sometimes be given drugs to combat them so that it does not become overtired.

As with many other diseases, distemper is easier to prevent than treat. A puppy born from a dam that is immune to distemper through vaccination will have a certain level of immunity from its dam’s milk. This immunity wears off at about eight weeks, however, so the pup must be vaccinated to remain protected. This first vaccination is usually done at eight weeks of age. It is often given in a combination shot containing distemper, hepatitis, and parvovirus. Leptospirosis used to be included in this first injection. But as it is quite rare now and because it is believed that early lepto vaccination can tie up a pup’s immune system, making it less responsive to the distemper, hepatitis, and parvo portion of the vaccination, it is now usually deleted until a booster vaccination, given several weeks later.

If necessary, puppies may be vaccinated earlier, at three weeks of age, with a “puppy shot.” or temporary vaccination. Puppies not receiving their vaccinated dam’s milk or those under stress or in a high distemper area often do well with this added protection. As opposed to the older belief, there is not a “permanent” distemper vaccination. To keep active immunity, the dog should receive a yearly booster, once it has received its initial series of vaccinations.

Selections from the book Veterinary guide for animal owners : cattle, goats, sheep, horses, pigs, poultry, rabbits, dogs, cats by Spaulding, C. E; Clay, Jackie (Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 1998)

Distemper in dogs have been mentioned in 2010


Viral disease principally of young dogs and caused by a morbillivirus of the family Paramyxoviridae. Clinical disease includes mild to severe systemic illness with high morbidity and variable mortality (mortality often related to central nervous system [CNS] infection).


Distemper, hardpad disease


Species, Age, Sex

  • Dogs, especially urban or suburban dogs between 3 and 6 months of age
  • Other susceptible species include additional members of the order Canidae (coyote, dingo, wolf, fox), ferrets, mink, skunk, raccoon, panda, and select members of the order Felidae (lion, cheetah, jaguar, margay, ocelot).

Genetics & Breed Predisposition

More common, with higher mortality rates, in dolichocephalic breeds versus brachycephalic breeds

Risk Factors

Inadequate vaccination, exposure to animals with clinical or subclinical disease, transplacental transmission, and exposure of vaccinated but immunocompromised animals to an infected animal

Contagion & Zoonosis

Highly contagious (aerosol route most common) between infected, shedding individuals and susceptible individuals. Not considered zoonotic.

Associated Conditions & Disorders

  • Hyperkeratosis of the footpads (hardpad disease)
  • Ocular signs (anterior uveitis, optic neuritis, retinal degeneration, keratoconjunctivitis) can develop with systemic disease or as a sequela.
  • Postencephalitic epilepsy
  • Myoclonus
  • Persistent anosmia (loss of sense of smell) possible in recovered patients

Clinical Presentation

Disease Forms/Subtypes

Subclinical to mild disease is probably most common, but systemic/generalized form is the most recognized.

Generalized distemper: manifests initially as a respiratory infection followed by gastrointestinal (GI) signs and often CNS signs; CNS signs may manifest concomitant with or after resolution of respiratory and GI signs.

Old-dog encephalitis (ODE) likely results from an inflammatory reaction associated with persistent canine distemper virus infection of the CNS gray matter. Clinical signs can include ataxia, compulsive movements such as head pressing or continual pacing, and uncoordinated hypermetric gait. Systemic signs are not associated with this form.

Inclusion-body polioencephalitis is a variant of the disease, can occur after vaccination, and only manifests as a CNS disease. The pathogenesis is similar to ODE.

History, Chief Complaint

With the generalized form of the disease, initial presentation typically includes one or more of the following: lethargy, ocular and nasal discharge (serous or mucopurulent), cough, inappetence, vomiting, diarrhea. A patient with a more advanced form of the disease often has a history of neurologic signs (seizures, ataxia, etc.).

Physical Exam Findings

Systemic disease: as above; fever, ocular signs (keratitis, conjunctivitis, uveitis), loud breath sounds on auscultation, dehydration, cachexia, poor haircoat. Dental abnormalities in dogs that survive neonatal infections (dental enamel hypoplasia, tooth impaction, oligodontia).

Neurologic disease: signs indicative of encephalitis or encephalomyelitis (seizures, vestibular signs, cerebellar signs/hypermetria, paresis). Seizures are commonly manifested as “chewing-gum” seizures (vigorous repetitive opening and closing of the mouth) but can also be generalized. Hyperesthesia attributable to viral meningitis is uncommon. Myoclonus (rhythmic twitching of the head, neck, or one or more limbs) occurs as the disease progresses and is very suggestive of canine distemper. Optic neuritis and chorioretinitis can be observed.

Systemic and neurologic signs are not always present at the same time. More often, neurologic disease occurs 1-3 weeks after recovery from systemic signs, but the two forms can coincide. Rarely, the neurologic signs will occur weeks to months later.

Etiology and Pathophysiology

Certain strains of canine distemper virus (CDV) are more virulent and neurotropic; Snyder Hill strain is associated with polioencephalomyelitis; A75/17 and R252 strains are associated with CNS demyelination.

Shedding of the virus begins by the seventh day after infection and may continue for up to 90 days.

Shedding is primarily aerosol, but virus can also be recovered from urine, feces, nasal and ocular secretions, and skin.

After initial exposure, CDV replicates in the upper-respiratory epithelium tissue macrophages. These cells are carried by the local lymphatics to the tonsils and retropharyngeal and bronchial lymph nodes. Here, the virus multiplies and disseminates systemically in mononuclear cells, creating an initial fever and leukopenia 3-6 days after exposure. Lymphopenia is associated with viral damage to both T and B lymphocytes.

Viremia occurs by the ninth day post infection as the virus spreads hema-togenously to epithelial tissues and the CNS. Occurrence of viremia depends on host humoral and cell-mediated immunity. Infection of epithelial tissue correlates with shedding of the virus and occurs through all epithelial secretions, even in animals with subclinical infections.

– Dogs with adequate humoral and cell-mediated immunity clear the virus by day 14.

– Dogs with an intermediate level of immunity have infection of the epithelial tissues by day 14. Clinical signs that develop eventually resolve if the antibody titer increases and the virus is cleared from most tissues. Some virus may persist in footpads and CNS.

– In dogs with poor immunity, virus spreads to many tissues by day 14, including skin, endocrine glands, exocrine glands, and epithelial cells of the intestinal tract, the respiratory system, and the genitourinary tract.

Clinical signs are usually severe; secondary bacterial infections are common (although this advances morbidity, studies indicate it does not increase mortality).

CNS infection occurs hematogenously. CDV enters the CNS through meningeal perivascular spaces, the choroid plexus, and the ventricular ependymal cells. Acute CDV encephalomyelitis occurs early in the course of the disease of young and immune-deficient dogs, causing a polioencephalomyelitis.

Full recovery from CDV infection in young animals is uncommon, but likely produces lifelong immunity.

Transplacental infections can result in abortions or stillbirths. Puppies that survive transplacental infections can develop neurologic signs by 6 weeks of age and often have lifelong immunodeficiency.

Some dogs will continue to shed the virus for up to 2 months after infection.


Diagnostic Overview

A presumptive diagnosis in a young, unvaccinated dog is made based on presentation of clinical signs that include oculonasal discharge, vomiting, and/or diarrhea with or without a recent onset of neurologic signs. Older dogs can initially present with signs consistent with infectious tracheobronchitis. Clinical confirmation typically comes from a blood sample submitted for immunofluorescent antibody testing of white blood cells, or anti-CDV antibody titers in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Differential Diagnosis

  • Canine infectious tracheobronchitis
  • Canine parvoviral enteritis
  • Other CNS diseases of young dogs

Initial Database

CBC can reveal an absolute lymphopenia; rarely, CDV inclusions are identified in lymphocytes, monocytes, neutrophils, or erythrocytes.

Serum biochemistry profile and urinalysis are variable and not definitive for CDV.

Thoracic radiographs: interstitial pattern in early phases; evidence of bronchopneumonia in later stages with secondary bacterial infection

Advanced or Confirmatory Testing

Serum antibody testing: elevated serum IgM titers in unvaccinated dogs confirm recent exposure or current infection.


– Elevated CSF protein and lymphocytic pleocytosis are typical.

– Presence of CSF antibody titers to CDV are confirmatory when there is no blood contamination of the sample.

– With potential blood contamination of the CSF sample, paired samples of CSF and serum are tested for CDV and canine parvovirus (CPV) antibody titers; since CPV does not cross the blood-brain barrier, a CDV/CPV ratio that is higher in CSF than in blood suggests CDV infection.

– Severely immunosuppressed patients or those with the noninflammatory demyelinating form of CDV may have normal

CSF, often with low CSF protein (<5 mg/dL).

Fluorescent antibody testing

– Cytologic smears from buffy coat, tonsillar or conjunctival epithelial scrapings, CSF, bone marrow, urine sediment

– More rewarding on conjunctival scrapings early in course of the disease

PCR test for CDV: whole blood, serum, CSF

Postmortem testing: immunofluorescent techniques for frozen samples of tonsils, lymph nodes, GI epithelium, spleen, urinary bladder, brain


Treatment Overview

Affected animals are treated with supportive care, antibiotics to control secondary bacterial infection, and anticonvulsants to control seizures. No medication is known to eradicate the virus.

Acute General Treatment
  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics (parentally initially) such as ampicillin, 22 mg/kg IV q 8 h, and enrofloxacin (not in growing puppies), 5 mg/kg diluted 1:1 in saline and given slowly IV q 12 h for secondary bacterial infections
  • Nebulization and coupage if pneumonia apparent radiographically
  • Antidiarrheals (e.g., loperamide, 0.1-0.2 mg/kg PO up to q 8 h), antiemetics (e.g., dolasetron, 0.3-0.6 mg/kg IV or SQ q 12-24 h; or metoclopramide, 0.2-0.4 mg/kg SQ q 8 h), and GI protectants (e.g., omeprazole, 0.7 mg/kg PO q 24 h) as needed for GI signs
  • IV fluid resuscitation to correct dehydration and electrolyte disturbances
  • Diazepam or midazolam if acute seizure control is needed (0.5 mg/kg IV or 1 mg/kg per rectum PRN up to 4 times in 2 hours)
  • Isolation: patients are in an infectious phase of the disease and contagious.
Chronic Treatment

Anticonvulsant therapy (phenobarbital, 2-4 mg/kg PO q 12 h; or leve-tiracetam, 20 mg/kg PO q 8 h) for seizure control. Sodium valproate (60-100 mg/kg PO q 8 h) can be considered in early stages of myoclonus but is ineffective in later stages.

The use of corticosteroids is controversial. Antiinflammatory doses are considered useful to combat optic neuritis. Immune-suppressive doses are sometimes advocated for acute inflammatory CDV encephalitis in older dogs without systemic disease. Corticosteroids are advocated in the treatment of ODE and vaccine-induced CDV. Corticosteroid doses should be tapered to the lowest effective dose and are contraindicated in the presence of systemic disease with mucosal (respiratory, ocular, GI) signs and any evidence of secondary bacterial infections.

Possible Complications

Recovery from systemic signs of the disease may precede development of neurologic signs weeks to months later.

A possible link has been noted between rheumatoid arthritis and CDV.

Prognosis and Outcome

Development of CNS signs is the most important negative prognostic factor.

Dogs with adequate immunity do not develop clinical signs, and they clear the virus within 14 days post infection. The incidence of late-onset CNS signs in these dogs is low.

Dogs with inadequate immunity develop mild to severe systemic signs and frequently develop CNS signs.

Pearls & Considerations


CDV has a worldwide distribution and most commonly affects puppies and young, unvaccinated adults. Unvaccinated puppies exposed to an infected dog in the waiting room of a veterinary hospital should be vaccinated at that time and usually develop sufficient immunity before the virulent virus produces systemic signs.

Weimaraners may have an unusual susceptibility to vaccination (see below).


Routine vaccination with a modified live canine distemper (ML-CDV) vaccine is indicated in puppies (every 3-4 weeks beginning at 6 weeks and ending at 16 weeks). A booster vaccine is given 1 year later and then periodically (every 3 years).

Vaccination usually confers adequate immunity. Immunocompromised dogs or dogs exposed to a large amount of highly virulent CDV strain can still develop disease.

Vaccine-induced infections are very rare and only produce CNS signs.

Complications from the vaccine can occur but are also rare. Complications can include hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD) and juvenile cellulitis. Clinical signs usually develop within 10 days of vaccination (range 4-21 days) and have been associated with all ML-CDV vaccine strains. Weimaraners are the most frequently affected breed, and some evidence suggests there are familial tendencies. A corticosteroid-responsive neutrophilic meningitis/arteritis has also been described in this breed in association with ML-CDV vaccination. The use of a recombinant CDV vaccine in young Weimaraners instead of ML-CDV is suggested to reduce the risk of such complications. Additional vaccinations in Weimaraners after 1 year of age have not shown the same problems.

Recombinant CDV vaccines are currently available and showed comparable efficacy to ML-CDV vaccines in initial studies.

Technician Tips

Affected dogs should be isolated from other hospitalized patients, and gowns and gloves should be worn by personnel when handling these patients to prevent transmission of disease to other dogs.

Transmission via fomites can be devastating; be sure that nebulization equipment and other objects are thoroughly disinfected before and after each use.

Client Education

Vaccination of young dogs is essential.

Dogs with CDV infections should be isolated from healthy dogs for at least 2 weeks after cessation of signs in survivors. Some dogs will continue to shed the virus for up to 2 months after infection.

In the environment, CDV is very sensitive to UV light, heat, and drying.

Suggested Reading

Greene CE, Appel MJ: Canine distemper. In Greene CE, editor: Infectious diseases of the dog and cat, ed 3, Philadelphia, 2006, WB Saunders, pp 25–41.

Selections from the book Clinical Veterinary Advisor: Dogs and Cats, Second Edition, Editor-in-Chief Etienne Côté (Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada, 2010)