Distemper In Dogs.
This always has been and still is, regarded as a very dangerous
malady. It has an ancient and varied history, but is still without any specific treatment and attended by a large fatality..
Causes. It is a contagious, infective disease, the germ of which has not, as yet, been fully identified. The poison is fixed, extends through the air, and is carried by all sorts of material that has been in contact with the sick. It is easily communicated, not only by direct cohabitation, but through the air of buildings, even when the sick animal is kept at some distance away from the well ones, and great pains taken to prevent the two from being handled by the same person. About two thirds of the cases occur in animals under twelve months old. Although the susceptibility seems to decrease considerably after, then dogs of any age, beginning with puppies two weeks old, may have it. While one attack generally frees the animal from future ones throughout his life, the rule is not without its fair share of exceptions.
As in all contagious maladies there must be a good soil for the growth of the germ before it can produce its results, and while some dogs seem to be always free from its effects, others that are moderately so may be made susceptible by being reduced by improper care, as exposure to cold and wet, too frequent bathing, over feeding, too little exercise, improper food, living in a dark or badly ventilated place, as a cellar, in fact by anything that will tend to lessen his vitality. The breed seems to have nothing to do with the susceptibility, excepting that in the way of inbreeding and with puppies that are from parents who are without sufficient outdoor exercise, the vitality is always lowered in the progeny.
Symptoms. Although the disorder may appear accompanied by such a variety of symptoms, because the peculiar poison affects, at times, so many different organs, as the breathing tract, lungs, bowels, brain, spinal cord, eyes, and skin, there will be noticed, at the very beginning, if the animal is at all closely observed, a few symptoms that are in common, at first, to all cases; as dullness, slow, rather lifeless movements, small or fickle appetite, which may be accompanied by vomiting, trembling or shivering without apparent cause, unhealthy looking coat, and a tendency to tire easily. If, under these circumstances, the temperature is taken and found to be above one hundred and three, the case should be looked upon as being " suspicious."
After this, for a short but variable time, the temperature will drop somewhat for a while, and it is a feature of distemper that the animal will seem so well for a day or two, as to give the impression that he is entirely or nearly well.
The first well marked symptoms are, generally, a discharge from the nose and eyes, which, to begin with, may be clear and sticky, but which soon becomes thick and puss like, and of a rather dirty gray color; the eyelids are slightly inflamed, and the skin around the margins of the nostrils is dry and cracked looking. These discharges may become very profuse, change color a little, that from the nose offensive in smell; that from the eyes so irritating in character as to produce a condition that, unless great care is taken in keeping it clean, will produce an ulcer of the outer coat of the eye that may lead to the complete destruction of that organ. It is extremely likely that, within a few days of the marked onset, a diarrhea will be shown in which, almost at once, or later, the color will become dark green, the odor extremely offensive, and the discharges frequent in number. In any attack of this kind, which may last for three or four weeks, the appetite may remain fairly good or be lost entirely, and vomiting may or may not be present; the breathing may or may not be markedly increased in number, this depends upon how deeply the lining membrane of the breathing tract becomes implicated; there may be no cough or one of more or less importance, with gagging. During all of the time the temperature will be high, but is not evenly maintained; it may at times run up to one hundred and seven and at others go as low as one hundred and three; there are days when the animal will seem bright and nearly well, while perhaps on the next day he will seem to be as sick as ever.
Treatment. All cases of distemper must have the best nursing possible and, to arrive at the best results, be kept in a bright, sunny room, well ventilated, which is maintained at an even temperature of about sixty five, day and night. At the beginning it will be far safer and better to put on a " chest protector." This may be made of one thickness of " outing" flannel, cut so as to cover the breast and sides, as far back as the ribs extend; two holes may be cut at the right place, through which the front legs are to be put; the whole “protector" is then to be lined with an even layer of cotton wool, put onto the body, the edges being carried up over the back, pulled so that it will fit closely, and then sewn strongly together in front of the chest and along the back. The universal use of this "protector," in all cases of distemper, even if there seems to be no especial need of it at the early time when it is applied, will defend the body surface from temporary and unavoidable draught of air and so very much lessen liability to lung complications and encourage recovery. The food should be of a good, nourishing, easily digestible kind, and, if the appetite is good, be fed in prescribed quantities three times daily; as, for a medium sized dog, a tumbler full of milk, containing a tablespoonful of lime water, with a teacupful of oatmeal, or crumbled stale wheat bread, or well boiled rice, in the morning; at noon a moderate sized tablespoonful of fresh, finely chopped raw beef, free from all fat, may be given; while the supper will be a tumbler full of strong beef broth, with bread or rice. If there is no appetite the diet must be approximated to the above so far as possible. The milk and limewater had better be fed in one ounce doses each two hours, alternated with the same quantity of strong beef broth. Two teaspoonfuls of the chopped raw beef may be given, and will generally be eaten, instead of one of the doses of the broth. Raw egg may be fed in doses of one ounce . at a time; certain dogs will like this and, if so, it does them good; in other animals the egg will be thrown up and, if insisted upon, cause violent vomiting. If egg is given and the first dose is not retained, do not try it again for several days at least. If the above prescribed quantities produce vomiting in any case, they must be made smaller in quantity, but given at the same intervals of time. If then vomiting persists, everything but the milk and lime water, which may be warmed a little, had best be stopped. If the vomiting is then persistent a teaspoonful of iced lemon juice Will often "settle" the stomach. Allow but little water at a time, three or four swallows; it may be given half way between the meals; and ff the animal is vomiting give him a little very cold ice water at a time.
Keep the nose and eyes as clean as possible by washing them carefully as often as necessary with a solution of lysol, fifty drops, to eight ounces of water, or, if this is not obtainable, with blood warm water with a little milk in it; the outside and end of the nose will be more comfortable if a small quantity of vaseline is rubbed over them occasionally. After cleansing out the eyes put in a drop or two of a solution of argyrols, twenty-four grains to one ounce of water, each time; it will help very considerably in preventing the formation of the dreaded ulcer.
From the beginning use the following powder: Calomel, four grams. Subnitrate of bismuth, seventy-two grains. Phenacetine, forty-eight grains. Mix, rub well together, and divide into twenty-four powders. Give one of the powders each two hours, for as long, not exceeding two days, as seems necessary; after that they may be given each three or four hours; or no oftener than seems necessary. This will help to control the bowels, lessen the fever, and settle the stomach.
The further complications are:
1. Ulcers of the outer covering of the eye which penetrate and attack some of the inner structures.
Treatment. Call a veterinarian or an occulist.
2. Pneumonia. The onset of this may be recognized by a considerable increase of the internal temperature, increased and labored breathing, with more or less puffing of the cheeks and a dull weak cough.
The Treatment will be that given for bronchial pneumonia.
3. Nervous Complications. In animals that have been previously severely weakened, distemper occasionally begins with great dullness and depression, which gradually progresses into more or less complete unconsciousness. When these symptoms depend upon the distemper poison, the temperature will be raised, as described, in the earlier part of the attack at any rate.
Treatment will be to thoroughly move the bowels as quickly as possible. Give two compound cathartic pills, as used for men and to be had of any druggist; ff diarrhea be already present do not use but one of the pills.
3a. In this form, it rarely happens that a strong dog, not before having shown noticeable symptoms of distemper, will exhibit great nervous excitement, as restlessness, yelping, and even attacks of fury, which after a little time will be succeeded by the symptoms of depression and unconsciousness described above. In these instances there is, at first, a considerable presence of blood in the brain, which is sooner or later followed by continued pressure with more or less insensibility.
Treatment. If seen in the first stages, cool the head by the constant application to it of ice water, if it be possible to do so. In the second stages use the compound cathartic pills, as advised. It is oftentimes very difficult to move the bowels of these animals, and if, within twelve or fifteen hours after the pills have been given, the desired result is not obtained, use hot, strong, soapy water injections of one half pint of the fluid, each two hours, so long as necessary.
3b. After distemper has been running its more ordinary course for a longer or shorter time, twitching of the muscles at various parts of the body may begin to be shown. Commonly, the parts thus first affected are either the muscles of the forehead and around the eyes, or those of the legs, generally the hind ones. When the twitching affects the described muscles of the head, the sign is a bad one, the case either dying within a few days, or gradually passing into one of more or less general paralysis. When the convulsive twitching attack the legs, one or more, the brain is not so directly implicated and the case may even recover, rarely, although more commonly, while the dog may not die, the twitching continues throughout life, in spite of all that is done, to cure it.
3c. In other instances, while the animal has seemed to be doing well, he is suddenly seized with a fit; he barks, yelps, perhaps champs his jaws and froths a little at the mouth, draws his head and neck backward and to one side, falls, becomes unconscious, is seized with spasms of the muscles of the greater part of the body, and, as showing the coming tendency toward paralysis, the manure and urine are sometimes passed involuntarily. In from one half to one minute consciousness may begin to return, the dog gets onto his feet, but shows great weakness, or the seizure may pass directly into a long continued unconsciousness. If the animal lives so long, paralysis is likely to follow; it may be confined to a certain group of muscles, especially those of the hind limbs or, at times, the whole body becomes paralyzed. Recovery from this condition has, rarely, been known to take place, but as a rule, unless the dog dies from extreme weakness, he lingers along with no permanent improvement of the paralysis until he has to be chloroformed as an incurable case.
Treatment of the last two described complications is very apt to be unsatisfactory. When the twitching commences use full doses of the bromide of potassium (see table); if whining and yelping are persisted in give tincture of opium in ten drop doses, in a teaspoonful of sweet oil, each two, three, or four hours, but use no more than is absolutely necessary to overcome the symptom which the drug is given to relieve. Paralysis should be treated by such stimulants as coffee, brandy, strong beef tea with wine; with a diet of finely chopped raw beef in moderate quantities at a time, three times daily, if it is eaten with good or even fair appetite and comfortably well digested.
Fourth. It rarely happens that, after the first symptoms are shown, the effects of the whole poison seem to take place upon the skin on the inner surface of the thighs and on the abdomen. This "breaking out" is first shown by the appearance of minute red spots which, after about twenty-four hours, develop into small nodules surrounded by a bright red ring. These nodules change gradually into small blisters and pustules which vary in size up to that of a pea, which either open and leave a sore which discharges for a time, or else dry up leaving a yellowish brown scab. Healing takes place, after about eight days, leaving a collection of bright pale red spots which continue for some little time.
At other times the eruption may be spread over the entire body, m which cases it resembles an attack of dry eczema; with this there is a bad smelling odor from the body and there will be a considerable temporary loss of hair.
This has been called the abortive form of distemper and is the least fatal of any. There is but very little itching, and the temperature drops to the normal point when the eruption appears.
Treatment is very simple; moist sore places may be dressed with any good drying powder, as one part of the oxide of zinc to ten parts of finely sifted wheat flour; or, if obtainable, the compound alum powder of the drug stores. If a very little glycerin is put upon the scabs it will hasten their natural removal. The food should be that already recommended.
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copyright 2005, J. Crow Company, New Ipswich NH 03071