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What is Canine Distemper?
Canine distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that affects the gastrointestinal, respiratory and nervous systems of puppies and dogs.
This virus also infects other wild animals such as foxes, raccoons, skunks, wolves, coyotes and ferrets. It is very important that you keep your dogs away from other wildlife to avoid the virus from spreading.
Distemper is a cruel, often fatal disease striking both dogs and cats – and it is a disease that can be easily controlled with a vaccination that has been around since the 1950s.
What Causes Canine Distemper?
Canine distemper is transmitted through the exposure of airborne viral particles in the respiratory secretions of dogs and puppies. Outbreaks of canine distemper tend to be sporadic.
Dogs and puppies younger than six months that have not been immunized are at an increased risk of developing this infection.
Diagnosing Canine Distemper
The diagnosis of canine distemper is based on the symptoms, your dog’s vaccination history and certain laboratory tests.
Various tests such as blood tests, x-rays, CT scans, cerebrospinal fluid, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and immunofluorescence assay may be performed to confirm the diagnosis of canine distemper.
Symptoms and Signs of Canine Distemper
The symptoms and signs of canine distemper include:
- Eye discharge (initially watery and then turns pus-like)
- Nasal discharge
- Loss of appetite
In advanced stages, seizures, twitching, partial or complete paralysis may occur if the virus attacks the nervous system.
Stages of Canine Distemper
Distemper progresses in stages. After a 6-9 day incubation (usually not noticeable), the dog contracts a brief fever and malaise.
Afterward, the dog is apparently normal for a few days or a week, and then it will suddenly show the typical distemper symptoms.
Help for Canine Distemper
The best way to prevent canine distemper is ensuring that your puppy or dog receives the distemper vaccination. Puppies that have not been vaccinated are more prone to viral infections because their immune systems are still weak.
Treatment usually involves addressing secondary infections, as there are no medications available to kill this particular virus.
Medications are aimed at controlling symptoms, and intravenous fluids may be administered. Once you have taken your pet home, avoid contact with other dogs, keep him warm and provide good supportive care.
It is vital that excellent hygiene is maintained to avoid transferring the infection to other dogs.
Natural Remedies for Canine Distemper
Natural and holistic remedies have also proven to be highly beneficial in supporting the immune, respiratory and digestive systems. These remedies are safe and gentle to use for your pet without the harmful side effects of conventional medications.
- Take your dog to your veterinarian or your naturopathic/homeopathic veterinarian immediately upon suspecting distemper infection.
- It is critical to withhold all food the dog is in the acute phase of distemper with a fever. (Normal rectal temperature is 100.5 to 101.5 F and 38-38.6 C).
- Fast the dog (see below) on vegetable broth and pure water until at least a day after the temperature becomes normal. If the fever returns, fast again.
- Because fevers tend to rise in the evening, record temperatures both morning and night to get an accurate overview.
- Vitamin C is an important aid. Many distemper cases can recover without ill effects by using vitamin C along with fasting. However, homeopathic treatment, such as using Vi-Pro Plus, is also recommended. For the Vitamin C – dose as follows: 250 mg every two hours for puppies and small dogs; 500 mg every two hours for medium dogs; 1000 mg ever three hours for large/giant dogs. Do not continue dosing through the night because rest is also important. Once the acute phase and fever have passed, double the interval between doses. Continue the Vitamin C until recovery is complete
- Water: Use a pure source such as bottled, spring, filtered or distilled water. Do not use tap water!
- Vegetables to use: Cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, beets, turnips with tops, dandelion greens, squash, spinach, corn, potatoes, cucumbers, parsley, carrots, and tomatoes.
- Vegetable broth: Using several of the vegetables listed above, make a soup stock by chopping and then simmering them for 20-30 minutes. You may add a small amount of meat or a bone to flavor the stock, but no spices or salt. Pour off the liquid for the animal and save the solids for a soup or casserole for yourwelf.
- When it’s time to end the fast, give your pet a simple diet for several days. This transition diet should last 2-3 days for every 7 days the dog was on liquids. Offer water, juice, broth, and a moderate amount of steamed or raw vegetables from the veggies listed above. You can also add a dollop of plain yogurt.
- After this period, slowly introduce one or two natural/whole foods, meats or other natural foods until you have worked into the standard natural diet with supplements. (see below for natural diet guidelines)
Good Nutrition is Crucial:
Food as medicine is particularly important for very sick animals, as well as to maintain a healthy immune system and prevent disease. These animals need a homemade diet emphasizing fresh, wholesome food and lightly steamed vegetables. Avoid chemical additives.
Simple, Healthy Dog Food Guidelines
- One half the diet can be cooked whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, corn, barley, buckwheat, wheat. Be sure to cook thoroughly and then blend them or run them through a food processor.
- Up to a quarter or a third should be high-quality proteins, namely real meat, barely cooked, and some of it raw if your dog will eat it.
- Up to a quarter should be vegetables and/or fruits (lightly steam or grate the veggies). Add in seaweed (dulse or kelp) for organic trace minerals including calcium. Blend or chop into small particles and if possible, choose vegetables in season.
- Add in a good pet vitamin/mineral supplement, an essential fatty acid (omega 3) and a digestive enzyme to the food before feeding to ensure that all needed nutrients are present and well absorbed.
- Your dog’s diet can be very simple. The important thing is to use fresh ingredients and fresh doesn’t have to mean expensive. Use the simple rule of thumb above for proportions and vary ingredients according to your situation, season, nutritional need, availability and weather.
- If it’s not convenient to prepare food daily, several days’ rations can be prepared in advance and placed in the refrigerate, although this will reduce its vital energy.
Re-establish Normal Flora:
After your dog has emerged from the acute distemper phase:
- Supply extra fiber by adding cooked oatmeal, brown rice or cooked wheat to your dog’s food. Start with a teaspoon for every 10-20 lbs of dog and work up to a heaping tablespoon per 20 lbs.
- Introduce good-guy bug,s including lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, by placing a dollop of non-sweetened yogurt atop your dog’s food. Both are also available in capsule form at most health food store
For the digestive tract:
Soothe and Heal:
This is best utilized in the recovery phases.
- Slippery Elm – For transient diarrhea or constipation. It is a soothing nutritive demulcent that coats sensitive or inflamed mucus membranes. Give one teaspoonful of powdered herb (mixed with water and given via dropper) per 20 lbs of body weight, four or five times a day, for no more than 4 weeks before taking one week off.
Boost and Balance the Immune System:
These are best utilized as a preventative and in the recovery phases.
- One of the most well known herbs known as Echinacea purpurea helps to support the immune system. Echinacea increases lymphocyte production when that is indicated and reduces production when there are already enough lymphocytes.
- Astragalus enhances the immune system and helps strengthen the lungs. It also helps stimulate the regeneration of bronchial cells.
- Turmeric has natural anti-inflammatory activity and strengthens immune function.
Learn about herbal preparation methods HERE.
- Homeopathic ingredients such as Distemperinum 30C and Bryonia supports the immune, respiratory and digestive systems by keeping the chest clear, maintaining digestive functioning and keeping the body temperature within normal range.
- Natrum muricaticum 30C is for the early stage with a lot of sneezing.
- Plsatilla 30C suitable for the stage of conjunctivitis with thick, yellow or greenish eye discharge.
- Arsenicum album 30C is indicated for the dog that is very ill, with rapid weight loss, loss of appetite, frequent thirst, weakness, restlessness and a slight clear discharge from the eyes that causes an irritation of the eyelids and surrounding areas.
- Hydrastis canadensis 6C indicated for advanced distemper with thick, yellow discharge of mucus from the nose or down the back of throat.
- Psorinum 30C is most useful for the dog that has survived distemper but cannot completely recover.
If none of this works, consult with a homeopathic veterinarian if you are able to – there are many other remedies worth trying.
More Information on Canine Distemper
Tips to prevent canine distemper
There are several ways to prevent canine distemper and these include:
- Feed your pet high quality commercial food or an all natural diet containing essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients
- Make sure that your dog’s vaccinations are updated regularly
- Avoid contact with raccoons, foxes, skunks and other potentially infected wildlife if possible
- Always provide fresh, clean water for your dog to prevent dehydration and flush out toxins
- Disinfect food and water bowls as well as sleeping areas and bedding
- Wipe away eye and nose discharge and keep these areas clean
- Limit your puppy’s contact with other dogs until he has received his complete series of vaccinations – avoid places such as parks, grooming parlors and obedience classes where dogs typically congregate
- Strengthen your pet’s immune system with immune-boosting supplements
- Visit your vet annually for routine check-ups
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