~ by Dr. Fernando Riera S.
This time we are going to discuss the impact of the Distemper virus; it is a contagious and serious viral illness, affecting numerous animals in our country and our community during the past few months.
The animals at risk of contracting this illness are the members of canine family, such as dogs, coyotes, weasels, coatis, raccoons, to mention a few. Therefore, our dogs are exposed to the infection when they go into the jungle or when they fight with other animals already infected. This virus is airborne and highly contagious through the respiratory system especially for those unvaccinated animals. Dogs around one year of age are more susceptible; however, we have seen cases at different ages. The incubation period of the virus is approximately two weeks.
The symptom varied and can show up initially as skin problems, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, and respiratory complications like a purulent nasal secretion; it can worsen and reach neurological level manifesting through seizures.
A large percentage of the infected animals die because the treatments are not very effective to assure the survival. In the rare cases of survival, it has been reported the development of “old dog encephalitis” as a result of the canine distemper.
The most common preventive measures are: vaccination of the females before the pregnancy, and vaccination of the puppies at the 6th week of age. Even though the virus is deadly, it could be eradicated with the use of disinfectants containing bleach, among others. When a puppy does not have a vaccination schedule, it is best not to expose it to other dogs since it is at risk of contracting infections.