What are the two most serious canine diseases?

April 13, 2012

Rabies and distemper – these two canine diseases are most serious and most dreaded by dog owners. A dog owner would panic if the pet is diagnosed to have one of these diseases as rabies and distemper are virtually incurable. Pet parents form a unique and special bond with their loyal and affectionate companions. Dog owners know that along with the basic needs of the pet regular veterinary care would also be necessary throughout the dog’s life. Vaccinations will be the pet’s first line of defense against common canine ailments. However, these shots cannot fully cover the pet against life threatening diseases. Thus it is a dog owner’s responsibility to understand the common health problems that the pet can develop. Recognizing the symptoms would be very important to be able to give the pet immediate medical care.

Rabies has a 100% fatality thus it is considered to the most serious canine disease. The virus is spread by an infected animal to another animal or even to humans through direct contact. The virus can be transmitted through other ways but the most common way of transmission is through dog bites. The virus will cause acute encephalitis or the inflammation of the brain. The bite wound would be the point of entry of the virus that affect nerve tissues and quickly travel to the central nervous system. The inflammation of the brain will cause neurological problems in the pet. The dog will show erratic behavior. Slow eye reflexes and fever are the first symptoms. This will be followed by restlessness and irritability. A well tempered dog will show a violent behavior. The dog would have the inclination to attack other animals and humans. The pet would even attack family members. At the last stage of the disease, the dog will lose control of motor movements. Paralysis and death follows once these symptoms are shown. The few humans that managed to survive rabies virus infection are noted to suffer from severe brain damage.

Canine distemper is another virtually incurable canine ailment. Distemper virus is contracted through the feces, urine and other bodily fluids of an infected dog. From the body secretion of an infected dog, the virus that was contracted by the new host via the mouth or nose will begin to replicate rapidly. The new host’s immune system will try to overcome the virus by keeping it inside the macrophages to be destroyed by the body’s enzymes. Unfortunately, instead of being destroyed, the virus will use the macrophages to facilitate its migration to other parts of the body. The virus will attack all the tissues in the dog’s body. Being a multisystemic viral disease the dog’s nervous system, respiratory system and gastrointestinal system will be affected. In 24 hours, affected dog will show signs of infection. Fever, thick and gooey eye and nose discharge are the first signs of this disease. Coughing, vomiting, diarrhea and chest congestion are signs that the viral infection has progressed. These symptoms are often confused as a bad case of cold thus the most needed immediate treatment is seldom given. Squinting of the eyes, nasal discharge, inappetance and sudden weight loss should cue the owner that the ailment of the dog is not just simple cold. In the advanced stages of distemper, the nervous system will already be affected so that the dog will manifest nervous ticks or strange twitching. Young puppies and unvaccinated dogs are more susceptible to this incurable disease. Adult dogs have a 50% rate of survival. Fatality rate in puppies is close to 80%. Oftentimes, dogs that managed to survive this viral infection would have to be put to sleep because of permanent brain damage.

Many serious and life threatening disease of dogs can now be treated. However, with rabies and distemper the only effective “treatment” would be prevention that can be achieved through immunizations.

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