Distemper Symptoms in Dogs, What is Distemper, Dog Eye Discharge

Distemper Symptoms in Dogs

distemper symptoms

Distemper symptoms in dogs can be incredibly upsetting for your dog or puppy. The disease can also be upsetting for you to witness as the owner and companion to your beloved pooch.

Distemper is a viral disease that can affect all breeds and all ages, however it is much more likely to appear in puppies as older more mature dogs may have developed an immunity to the disease…below are some of the symptoms that your dog or puppy may show…

  • Eye discharge
  • Nose discharge
  • Your dog or puppy may have an increased temperature
  • Your dog may start vomiting
  • Diarrhea may also be a symptom of the disease
  • Your dog may also cough excessively
  • Canine pneumonia may also develop in your dog or puppy.
  • You may notice that your dog’s nose and foot pads become calloused – when it occurs on the foot pads it is called hard pad disease.

When the disease has become really advanced it can lead to neurological problems including…

  • Canine seizures
  • Your dog may start involuntary snapping his jaws
  • You may notice that your dog has become increasingly weak and lost most of his strength
  • Another symptom of the disease include muscle tremors.
  • Your dog may also become uncoordinated in his movements.

Distemper Symptoms in Dogs

What is Distemper…?

As previously mentioned Distemper is a viral disease that is very similar to the virus measles that is spread in humans. It is classed as a morbillivirus and can be fatal if it isn’t treated fast. Vaccinations are now widely used to control the spread of the disease, however in some parts of the world including Finland the disease is a massive killer of dogs and puppies due to a lack of immunization schedules.

Distemper in dogs is highly infectious and is spread through dog to dog contact. This makes it much more likely to occur in dogs and puppies that are housed in shelters or rescue homes mainly due to the constant close contact that dogs and puppies have in this environment.

The disease is spread via respiratory secretions which will occur when your dog or puppy coughs. The disease (virus) does not survive for very long in the environment so it is quite easy to kill with a strong household detergent or disinfectant which you can either purchase from your pet store or speak to your vet about.


The disease is easily prevented through a comprehensive puppy vaccination schedule. By having your puppy vaccinated from an early age will stop the distemper symptoms from occurring in the first place.

Your vet will administer vaccinations so that your puppy is immunized at the age of six to eight weeks of age. The vaccinations will continue every two to four weeks until your puppy has reached the age of fourteen to sixteen weeks of age.

After your puppy has reached one year of age then the vet will give your puppy a booster vaccination and then again every one up to three years.


To help diagnose the disease the vet will look at the symptoms that your dog or puppy is exhibiting. The vet will do a physical examination before taking blood tests. The blood tests will determine whether your pooch has a massive decrease in the white blood cells. Your vet will also look at whether your dog or puppy has viral cells also present in the body – and this will help to determine whether the disease is present.


Treatment for distemper symptoms in dogs will include…

  • Antibiotics – these will be used to treat pneumonia if it is present.
  • If your dog is vomiting or suffering from diarrhea then you will need to give your dog plenty of fluids. 
  • If your dog is concerned about your dog or puppy’s breathing then he or she may prescribe bronchodilators to help open your dog or puppy’s airways.
  • If your dog is becoming severely dehydrated then your vet may decide to administer fluid via an intravenous drip, however the best way to stop your dog or puppy developing the disease is through vaccinations.

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