Experience with canine distemper?
June 24, 2007 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Sadfilter: Does anyone have experience with canine distemper?

My one-year-old or so border terrier, Woofie was adopted about six weeks ago from a rescue here in LA. He had come from the Lancaster animal shelter.

He was coughing and a bit lethargic, so we took him in to the vet, who gave him some antibiotics. He didn't get much better, and started having a twitch in his head, so we took him in again about ten days later, and the vet diagnosed him with distemper.

That was about two weeks ago, now. His twitch has spread a bit, and now his leg twitches when he's lying down. He's been eating, but more recently only when we feed him by hand, and his poops have been a bit unpredictable.

I understand that his prognosis is very, very poor. One thing that the vet couldn't really explain to us was, well, what to expect. And all the info I could find on the internet was about prevention.

Has anyone else gone through this with a dog? What was the timeline like? How old was your dog? When and how did you decide to put him down (or did he recover)?

The head of the rescue that we adopted him from told us that her brother's dog recovered from distemper, and while he still occaisionally has neurological symptoms, he
posted by YoungAmerican to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My family adopted a dog a little over a year ago from a Los Angeles animal shelter. He was eventually diagnosed with distemper. The shelter said he was 1.5 years old at the time of adoption (though he seemed much younger to me). I was involved in his adoption and I helped my mom with his early care.

Your situation sounds almost exactly like our family's. Once my parents brought the dog home, he was extremely ill: wouldn't eat, terrible bowel movements, was coughing a lot, and generally lethargic and immobile. Our vet diagnosed him with distemper as well (among other things) and, amazingly, he has been absolutely fine and healthy after about 2-3 months of terrible illness. He was watched by our vet in-house and in isolation for at least a week or so and he was put on medications (though I don't remember which). But since then, he has been an amazingly healthy, happy dog, with no neurological symptoms whatsoever.

I don't want to get your hopes up irrationally, but I do want to say that your situation is not necessarily absolutely dismal. My family does have to be on the lookout for neurological problems in our dog, which could hit at any time in the dog's life, but so far all is okay. Best of luck and please e-mail me if you need any more information. I could highly recommend a vet if you need one.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 1:23 PM on June 24, 2007

UG, did your dog never have neurological symptoms, or did they clear up?
posted by YoungAmerican at 2:11 PM on June 24, 2007

Thinking about it now, I, by myself, noticed a kind of gum-chewing motion in our dog on maybe one or two occasions. Other than that, there were no noticeable neurological symptoms, ever.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 2:39 PM on June 24, 2007

I should add that those occasions were early on during the illness; I haven't seen anything like it in about 10 months, solid.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 2:42 PM on June 24, 2007

Maybe this page or this one might help a little. It seems that distemper varies in its progression in each animal, and different strains may go a little differently as well, so there may just not be very reliable information on what to expect.

I'm very sorry about your dog - he looks adorable and sweet and I really hope he makes it.
posted by dilettante at 6:06 PM on June 24, 2007

We had an 8- to 10-week-old puppy with distemper who displayed the head shaking, and it became a constant thing - he had that for 2 weeks without any sign of lessening. He was very obviously very ill, lethargic, no interest in food or water, and he smelled - well, what I imagined dogs smelled like when they're dying from the inside out. Unfortunately he didn't make it. We also had another 10-month-old puppy some time later who was diagnosed with distemper, but he displayed no head-shaking. He survived and went on to become the smartest dog we ever had. I sincerely hope for the best for you and your Woofie.
posted by Lynsey at 8:55 PM on June 24, 2007

Also, someone told us about feeding dogs with distemper only meat until they start regaining their strength. Even though it was very costly to us at the time, we offered hamburger to the puppy who eventually survived - purely anecdotal, you understand, and no guarantees that had anything to do with his survival.
posted by Lynsey at 8:59 PM on June 24, 2007

Thanks so much, Lynsey. It seems that displaying the neurological symptoms is a very bad sign. I really appreciate you sharing with me.
posted by YoungAmerican at 10:17 PM on June 24, 2007

Our foster dog survived neurodistemper. She has some severe problems with tremor, but she's indomitable so I anticipate she'll continue to defy expectations. Nutritional support is about the only remedy, though some dogs do well on anti-seizure medication to control some of the neurological symptoms.
posted by answergrape at 7:03 AM on June 25, 2007

I don't have any experiences with distemper, but I just wanted to wish you and your puppy luck in dealing with this. This must be so hard for you, but he is lucky to be cared for.
posted by walla at 1:51 PM on June 25, 2007

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