Of all diseases that dogs are subjected to, perhaps distemper in dogs is the most frequent. It is also the most difficult to define.
It has been compared to typhoid, or to typhus fever in human, though the comparison hardly seems to be a good one. The disease is contagious and serious.
It is more apt to attack young dogs, and those known as “pure breed,” than old dogs and the dog rabble. But at any rate if a dog shows signs of the disease it`s best to isolate him from the other dogs.
Distemper Symptoms in Dogs
The symptoms of the disease vary considerably. Take a look at how Blaine described it:
“One of the earliest symptoms of distemper in dogs is a short, dry, husky cough, which is followed by a lessening of the appetite, of the flesh, strength, and spirits; the coat also begins to stare, and the eyes to wink in a full light, as though painfully affected by it; they also, if observed in the morning, exhibit the remains of a little hardened mucus, which may be seen adhering to the inner corner of each, while a general cloudiness of the eye steals over its surface.
There is watery discharge in the nose, greater or less as the membranous linings of the orbits and nasal cavities are more or less inflamed, which may remain for two or three weeks without much change.
It eventually, however, increases, and changes from a limpid watery fluid to a muco-purulent discharge (something like the discharge from an abscess), which flows down the face from the inner corner of each eye, and as the disease becomes more intense it frequently closes up the lids during the night, and blinds the dog until his efforts have opened them.
The nasal discharge, which is at first thin and watery, becomes muco-purulent, and next one of direct pus, by which his nose is no less closed up each morning by the viscid exudations his eyes.
As the intensity of the inflammation extends, the cough also, which was at first a slight huskiness (or sometimes there´s no cough at all during the early stages), increases to a distressing, harsh-sounding, and frequent attempt to forcing something up the throat by an effort that appears compounded of coughing and vomiting. In addition the infected dog will also usually display wasting, weakness, listlessness and lessening of the appetite.”
Remembering that dogs can`t relate their symptoms, or feelings, we can assume that distemper in dogs is something being nearer to grippe than to typhoid, or typhus.
Hurndall says: “I look upon distemper in dogs as a catarrhal fever, affecting, more or less severely, the mucous membranes of the various canals of the body, the nervous system being not infrequently implicated.”
Ivord says: “A contagious disease of which all dogs appear to carry the seeds in their system, accompanied with fever and derangement of most of the internal organs, and frequently ending in chorea, paralysis or inflammation of the lungs.” However, if the seeds of the disease are in the system it can hardly be termed a contagious disease.
Moore says: “The symptoms present considerable variations, which depend upon the rapidity of the disease, the character of the prevailing epidemic, and the local complication.”
Mills, after stating that the symptoms are very numerous and varied, concludes that “distemper in dogs will not be feasible to enumerate all the combinations that occur, as these are simply endless.”
How to Treat Distemper in Dogs
From the above descriptions, you will see that “distemper,” the worst of dog diseases, is a rather meaningless term. No wonder it is labeled as one of dog diseases with no cure.
But the only way to intelligently treat the disease is to individualize the cases.
Don´t think of the name of the disease, but look for the symptoms in the dog.
At the onset, if the dog is feverish, or chilly and feverish by turns, and restless, give him Aconite (which can be purchased over the counter at your local chain pharmacy as a homeopathic remedy) as this great polychrest arrests more diseases in their beginning stage than any other remedy.
Or, should the dog appear dull, feverish and stupid, “drunken looking,” give him Gelsemium. The difference between the two is that Aconite has restlessness prominence, while Gelsemium is characterized by a dull, sluggish, besotted condition.
These two, Aconite and Gelsemium are only used in the beginning of the disease. If they don´t work, move to other remedies.
If the Dog Has Bronchitis
Bryonia is needed when the dog has symptoms of bronchitis, which is known by short, hurried breathing, as though the act were painful, together with rattling of mucus, a short dry cough, which may become moist and loose, with blood streaked mucus.
When the mucus becomes “rusty” instead of being blood streaked, then Phosphorus should be given. This is already considered a dangerous stage. (Make sure to bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible.)
Where a clear fluid runs from the nose and eyes, either or both, and that symptom is very prominent and may be accompanied by fever and the other symptoms, Natrum mur should be given.
When there is diarrhea and exhaustion, (when the vital powers seem to sink, offensive and acrid outflow from inflamed nose and eyes, with great restlessness and constant whining, then Arsenicum will be necessary.
Should the mouth is more or less ulcerated, breath is peculiarly offensive, with bloody diarrhea, Mercurius must be given.
Belladonna is called for especially when the throat is inflamed and the eyes involved; also, when the brain seems to be involved and there are “fits.”
However, you may know that your dog has “distemper” and yet you´re unable to differentiate between the various remedies. If this is the case, I highly advise you to go see your vet. Remember that distemper in dogs is a contagious and serious disease, you must act immediately.
But, if in any case, you are unable to bring your dog to a vet, say there´s no vet in your area (which is the case in my rather big town in the Philippines), then give your dog Arsenicum for a few days and then followed with Nux vomica. Generally, this treatment works in most cases.
Some people say that since your dog needs to sustain his strength in order to combat the disease, you have to force-feed him. But this is a mistake. He is like a sick man whose taste buds become bitter.
Give the dog access to plenty of pure water, but do not try to force him to eat. Cure the disease by the indicated remedies above, or as advised by your vet, and nature will soon supply him the appetite when the disease is conquered.