May 20, 2024


Distemper virus was recently detected in a dead fox in the Weissenburg-Gunzenhausen area (Franconia). This virus can be life-threatening to foxes and dogs. Below, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about distemper virus.

What is distemper?

Distemper is a viral disease that belongs to the Paramyxoviridae family and is therefore related to the human measles virus. AniCura, a group of companies specializing in international veterinary medicine, explains this on its portal. This disease can affect not only domestic dogs, but also other carnivores such as foxes, wolves, dingoes, coyotes, jackals, ferrets, mink, weasels, raccoons, and seals. Domestic cats may also be infected but show no symptoms.

According to the Federal Animal Health Association, the incubation period for distemper virus, the period between infection and the first symptoms of illness, lasts approximately 3 to 7 days. As the association writes, there are three types of distemper: Intestinal distemper, pulmonary distemper, neurological distemper.

Distemper in dogs: these symptoms are typical

The first signs of illness may include fever, fatigue, and weakness. In addition, animals often refuse to eat. Intestinal distemper causes inflammation of the intestines, including diarrhea and vomiting, while pulmonary distemper is first detected by discharge from the eyes or nose. The inflammation spreads from the dog’s nasopharynx through the bronchi to the lungs. “As a result, coughing and difficulty breathing occur. Bacterial infections often attach to damaged mucous membranes and worsen the course of the disease,” warns the Federal Society.

However, the most feared and dangerous for animals is neurological distemper. According to the Federal Animal Health Association, this is the most common of her three forms. She experiences seizure-like spasms (distemper mites), movement disorders, and paralysis. These conditions are very difficult to treat and often require the dog to be euthanized.

Distemper infection: dogs, foxes, and humans

According to the AniCura website, this dangerous distemper virus can survive in sunlight for up to 14 hours and for several days in a room or on contaminated clothing. As with most disinfectants, high temperatures can quickly kill viruses. However, low temperatures of 0 to 4 degrees favor the virus, which means it can survive for several weeks.

Infection and transmission of distemper occurs in several ways, with infected animals shedding the virus through their secretions and feces. These include:

  • saliva
  • eye and nasal discharge
  • cough or sneeze
  • urine
  • like
  • vomit

If a young dog acquires an infection while teething, it can cause what is called “dental enamel loss” or “hardening of the teeth.”

As the Federal Animal Health Association writes, transmission can occur from dog to dog, but humans can also be involved if the virus gets on their shoes or clothing. Infection can also occur if a dog comes into contact with feces from an animal with distemper, such as a fox, while walking in the forest.

Dogs of all ages, especially young animals, who do not have sufficient immunity to distemper are at risk. AniCura’s website states that “puppies typically between 3 months and 6 months of age are particularly susceptible.”

Dogs suffering from distemper – life expectancy and long-term effects

Distemper is life-threatening and often fatal to dogs. However, as the State Investigation Agency for Rhineland-Palatinate said in a statement, this is not always the case. However, distemper infections often leave animals debilitated and susceptible to other diseases.

As AniCura writes, the course of the disease is highly dependent on the immune response of the infected dog. A weak immune response often leads to death. However, “even if the animal survives the acute phase, neurological symptoms often appear late.” These appeared as so-called “distemper mites.” These seizures can exhibit the severity of epilepsy.

Distemper: vaccination against a dangerous virus

Until the 1960s, distemper virus was thought to be the most devastating viral infection in dogs. However, around this time, vaccines for dogs were developed. According to the Paul Ehrlich Institute, five vaccines have been approved in Germany to vaccinate dogs against distemper.

Vaccination best protects dogs from distemper. Dogs should receive combined vaccines against distemper, hepatitis, and other diseases at most eight weeks of age. Vaccination must be repeated after 12 weeks. According to the recommendations of the Standing Immunization Committee, basic vaccinations include additional vaccinations at 15/16 weeks. One week after birth, and then around 15 months. Vaccinations against distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus must be renewed every three years.

Distemper: Can a person get infected and get sick?

As Dr. Jürgen Schneider Schauries of the Institute of Virology and Immunobiology at the University of Würzburg and his colleagues wrote in a previous article, there are currently no known cases of distemper being transmitted to humans by dogs. It has not been done. Despite its relationship to the human measles virus, this virus is not dangerous to humans.

By the way, finding animals is not uncommon these days. However, anyone who abandons an animal must be prepared for hefty fines.





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