Distemper In Puppies: What Should We Know

distemper in puppies

We all know how adorable little puppies can be, especially during the early stages. They are very cuddly, cute, and irresistible. Pet parents will surely do everything for the new addition to their families. Unfortunately, puppies are more prone to illnesses because of their young age. That’s why pet parents should be alert and cautious when their puppies start showing symptoms of any illnesses. Distemper in puppies is one of the most common illnesses.

What is puppy distemper?

Distemper is a disease caused by a virus belonging to the family Morbillivirus. The virus is said to be both airborne and droplet-spread. Thus, when an infected animal coughs or sneezes, the virus will be temporarily dispersed in the air. Eventually, the virus could settle on surfaces, floors, and the skin of the animal. It is key to helping your puppy get the disease.

If you suspect your pet to have distemper, make sure to isolate them. Furthermore, clean the surroundings and surfaces thoroughly, especially if you have other pets. Check out these disinfectants for you to use. 

Nature’s Miracle Stain, Odor Eliminator 

Nature’s Miracle Stain, Odor Eliminator is a safe solution you can use to scrub down your puppy’s crate or the surroundings. Remember that the virus could stay on surfaces and the ground for a long time. It works well on removing tough stains and odors. 

Pros: Effective, tough on stains and germs, safe for pets

Cons: A bit pricey than normal disinfectants

Nature’s Miracle Pet Mess Scrubbing Wipes 

Nature’s Miracle Pet Mess Scrubbing Wipes are also great if you’re on-the-go and have no time to prepare solutions and brushes to clean your puppy’s surroundings. You can practically use this on any type of surface or fabric. Furthermore, it’s safe for your animals, too!

Pros: Convenient, easy-to-use

Cons: Pricey 

Does my puppy have distemper? 

Now that you’ve found out a little bit about distemper in puppies, you want to know if you have a puppy with distemper. After all, it’s the first step in getting the help your dog needs. 

You can make an initial diagnosis by simply checking your puppy for signs and symptoms. We have listed them in detail in the following paragraphs. 

To confirm whether your puppy has distemper or not, visit your veterinarian for a consultation. Your vet is most qualified to make the correct diagnosis. He or she will conduct some blood tests and scans to make sure your puppy has distemper. Furthermore, he or she will also correlate your puppy’s clinical signs and symptoms with the lab results. However, if you simply can’t wait or just want to have a quick test, there are a few test kits available. 

Pethouzz Canine Distemper Virus test card

Pethouzz Canine Distemper Virus test card is a must buy if you wish to have an idea about your puppy’s condition. We still highly recommend getting your puppy checked out by a health professional, though. However, if you can’t bring your puppy to the vet right away and want to find out, it’s a good option.

Pros: 99% accuracy, safe to use, quick and instant results

Cons: Difficult to buy or get (limited stocks only)

What are puppy distemper signs?

Fever is one of the most common signs of distemper in puppies. It means temperatures greater than 100˚F. Moreover, a puppy with distemper would usually have high fevers. 


You can check your puppy’s temperature with a digital thermometer such as this one from Mindpet. The good thing about this infrared thermometer is it’s non-contact. Thus, no need to disinfect your thermometer every after use. Besides, the thermometer also has modes to measure objects, environment, or animal temperatures.

Pros: Fast-reading (1 second), hygienic, accurate reading

Cons: More expensive than oral or rectal thermometers

The virus also targets other organ systems like the respiratory and digestive systems. Thus, your puppy could also present with the difficulty of breathing, cough, sneezing. Furthermore, you should also watch out for diarrhea and vomiting. Make sure to check for any whitish or yellowish eye discharge or inflammation on your puppy. It is because the virus targets the conjunctivae as well. 

You may also notice your puppy’s pads getting thicker. Distemper is also known as the Hard Pad Disease, about the thickened footpads of the dogs infected by the virus. Your puppies’ footpads may harden, crack, and eventually bleed. Furthermore, apart from their foot pads, there may be a hardening of the nose. 

Lastly, the virus also targets the nervous system. It only occurs much later on in the disease. Thus, if you see some neurologic symptoms, it might be too late. Neurologic signs and symptoms include seizure episodes, paralysis, loss of balance, and similar deficits. If you spot this, bring your puppy to the nearest animal hospital immediately.

What is the puppy distemper vaccine?

The puppy distemper vaccine is administered in the first few weeks of the life of your puppy. Typically, this is mixed with other vaccines to decrease the number of shots or injections to your puppy. We all know that most puppies are not very good, even with the slightest amount of pain. 

If your puppy is having a difficult time at the vet’s clinic or with vaccines, there may be a couple of things you could do to alleviate their anxiety. 

Bingo Pet Co. Calming Treats for dogs 

The Bingo Pet Co. Calming Treats for dogs is the best chill pill you could give your puppy with distemper. Don’t worry. It isn’t a sedative or a hypnotic. It’s made from 100% organic hemp oil, so you’re sure that unwanted side effects are minimal. 

Pros: More affordable than other hemp-based chews

Cons: Not regulated by FDA (food supplement)

RelaxoPet For Dogs

RelaxoPet For Dogs is an innovative anti-stress device for dogs of all ages. Your puppy with distemper will surely benefit from its anti-stress, anti-anxiety, and calming effects. It makes use of high-frequency sound to relax your puppy. Thus, if you’re worried about giving your puppy a pill or any supplement, it’s the way to go.

Pros: 100% safe and effective for puppies, non-toxic, no chemicals

Cons: Very expensive 

Juvale Dog Vaccination Record

Be up to date with your puppy’s vaccinations with the Juvale Dog Vaccination Record. Never miss a shot and always be on time. This vaccination record comes with 24 records that are designed for Pet Health Records.

Pros: Cheap, keeps vaccination dates and record organized

Cons: None

What are the side effects of puppy distemper shots?

Any drug that you give your puppy would have side effects. Vaccines are not an exemption. However, despite this, you should always weigh the benefits against the risks. The canine distemper shot has way more benefits than risks. Thus, veterinarians highly recommend going through with vaccinations. 

Fortunately, the puppy distemper shot is considered very safe and effective. Pain at the site of injection is the most common side effect your puppy with distemper will experience. However, take note that this is completely normal. Your puppy might also feel a bit feverish, but this will eventually subside. Furthermore, your puppy might feel a little tired and sleepy after the shot. All of these things are normal. Thus, there is no need to worry.

If you notice your dog’s having a hard time breathing or is starting to develop red itchy patches on any part of their body, it might be an allergic reaction. Moreover, this can also be in the form of facial swelling. When this happens, bring them into your vet for an anti-allergy shot. 

Can a puppy survive distemper?

Unfortunately, there is no definite cure for distemper in puppies. There are several supportive management options your vet can give to help stop the progression of the disease. Among the management is IV fluid administration to keep your puppy well-hydrated. It is especially if your puppy has diarrhea and vomiting. 

Moreover, if your puppy with distemper is already showing neurologic signs, your vet will administer some anti-seizure medications. They will also give some antipyretic medications to help manage your puppy’s temperature. Furthermore, if any secondary bacterial infections arise, they will give antibiotics. Typically, secondary infections target the lungs in the form of pneumonia.

How do I stop my puppy from getting distemper?

As previously mentioned earlier, vaccination is the best thing to do to help your puppy avoid contracting the virus. Make sure that your puppy’s immune system is also at its optimum. It will increase the chances of your puppy dodging the virus if it ever comes in contact with it. You can do so by giving them proper nutrition, supplements, vitamins. Furthermore, making sure they are not constantly stressed or anxious goes a long way. 

Distemper in puppies is truly an alarming illness. As pet parents, we only want to make sure our puppies will grow up to be healthy and well. With vaccination, you can give your puppies lifelong protection from distemper. Coupled with good nutrition and a loving environment, your puppy will surely grow up to be a fun, cheerful, and healthy dog. Consult your vet whenever you suspect your puppy of being ill.