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Distemper in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatments

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Hard-pad is a form of distemper in which the virus attacks the skin of the feet and nose, producing thick, horny skin on the nose and calluslike pads on the feet. It first appears about 15 days after the onset of the infection. At one time, hard-pad and encephalitis were thought to be separate diseases, but they are now recognized as being caused by different strains of the distemper virus. Hard-pad is much less common than it was in the past, due to better vaccines and increased use of vaccines.

Treatment: Distemper must be treated by a veterinarian. Antibiotics are used to prevent secondary bacterial infections, even though they have no effect on the distemper virus. Supportive treatment includes intravenous fluids to correct dehydration, medications to prevent vomiting and diarrhea, and anticonvulsants and sedatives to control seizures.

The outcome depends on how quickly you seek professional help, the virulence of the distemper strain, the age of the dog, whether he has been vaccinated, and his ability to mount a rapid and effective immune response to the virus.

Prevention: Vaccination against canine distemper is almost 100 percent protective. All puppies should be vaccinated by 8 weeks of age. Brood bitches should be given a DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza combination) booster shot two to four weeks before breeding. This ensures that high antibody levels will be present in the colostrum. However, some veterinarians believe this additional vaccine booster is not needed.

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WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

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