Distemper Virus

Canine Distemper Virus causes an incredibly contagious illness that is most common in young puppies and unvaccinated older dogs. Distemper is an airborne virus which can be spread through the air or through direct & indirect contact (such as blankets, bowls, human contact). The virus attacks the respiratory, urogenital, gastrointestinal, and finally nervous systems.


  • High fever that comes and goes
  • Lethargy
  • Upper Respiratory signs - conjunctivitis, eye discharge, nasal discharge, coughing
  • GI Signs - vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia
  • Neurological signs (as the disease progresses) - Twitches, Chewing gum seizures, head tilt, seizures. paralysis, fits of hysteria 

"Chewing Gum" Seizure

Austin Pets Alive and Distemper

Many of Austin Pets Alive's distemper dogs have survived (and have mild neurological symptoms throughout life), but the prognosis is still not very promising. To hear more about APA's efforts to save our distemper dogs (optional), see Dr. Jefferson's Presentation given at the University of Florida.

Saving Distemper + Dogs

This is a very serious disease, much more severe than Parvovirus, and protocols must be strictly followed if a dog is put on Distemper Watch. This is imperative to prevent other puppies in the ICU from catching the virus. Always watch for symptoms of this virus in our patients, especially for those that come from surrounding areas/shelters (other than Austin Animal Shelter).


  • Isolate  - place in back bathrooms. Since Distemper is airborne, other patients in the ICU shouldn't even be breathing the same air.
  • Treat Last 
  • Prepare all medications, blankets, thermometer, food, water, other equipment before entering the cage. To reduce chance of spread, do no go in and out of the cage
  • Wear gloves and smock
  • Wash hands IMMEDIATELY after leaving the room. DO NOT touch other equipment in the ICU, including medicine viles, blankets, etc, before washing hands.
  • Do not bring charts to the treatment area, they are likely contaminated. Write down the dog's medications or take a picture on your phone so that you can draw them up. 

More Information