Dystemper is a disease present commonly in domestic animals. Canine dystemper is something that affects animals like ferrets and dogs however, another form of the disease is also present in their feline counterparts, the cats. In both the animals, the disease can spread to other wild animals and thus, can affect many animals within a few short days. The importance of keeping your dog or cat safe during an outbreak cannot be stressed enough. The disease is caused by a virus, so there are no specific medications for it once the animal has been infected.
It is said that domesticated dogs first started the infection and it was they who spread it to the wilder animals. Whatever the root source, dystemper is something that usually infects small puppies, about 3 to 6 weeks old. They are more susceptible to the disease since they have weaker immune systems and cannot defend themselves. It is because of this that puppies have the highest death rate due to this disease and many puppies are lost to the disease every year. Although the discovery of the vaccine has helped things significantly, it has various side effects of its own, and is hence, not very reliable. Once infected, the infection has a dormant period of about 2 weeks before it starts showing its ugly signs and symptoms. That is another problem related to the disease as an animal might be infected and be able to infect other animals during that period without showing any symptoms of being sick. This also makes it hard to control the spread of the disease.
Once the dormancy period is over, the dystemper virus simultaneously attacks multiple organ systems. These include the respiratory tract, the gut and the gastrointestinal system and the nervous system. In the respiratory system, the virus causes coughing, runny nose and excessive salivation. All these can further lead to the development of pneumonia in the animal which is also fatal. In the gut, the virus acts by causing diarrhea and loss of appetite which also causes loss of weight. It also limits the ability of the body to uptake water, and coupled with the fact that it causes vomiting, causes severe dehydration in the animal. If left untreated, the disease then progresses to the nervous system and neurological signs and symptoms also appear. These include frequent seizures and loss of coordination. Muscle movement also becomes limited and frequent twitching of the muscles can be observed. In some animals, the eyesight and the optic nerve are also affected.
Tips and comments
The greatest problem with dystemper is that most of its symptoms are fatal and because of that, there is a very high mortality rate of the disease. Since all symptoms sprout altogether, it becomes very hard to treat each and every symptom, and this is what leads to the death of the animal. Precautionary measures include getting your pet vaccinated in time and taking care of your animal especially in the case of an outbreak. Contact with other animals should be limited during a dystemper outbreak.
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