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3 Diseases That Mimic Canine Distemper

Some Diseases Resemble Distemper Symptoms

Since Canine Distemper has three different stages of infection, it also comes with a variety of warning signs that oftentimes resemble other diseases. Throw in the fact that there’s no specific test to separate Distemper from other illnesses, the process of forming a correct diagnosis can be long and tiring for veterinarians. Luckily, through a combination of diagnostic procedures, look-alike diseases are effectively ruled out. To give you an idea, we’ve detailed three diseases that mimic Distemper down below.


Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a respiratory infection caused by the bacterium Bordatella bronchiseptica. It presents itself through respiratory signs, like fever, coughing, sneezing, and eye and nose discharge—just like Distemper during its early stages, so it’s not a surprise that these two diseases often get mixed up before diagnostic procedures are done. However, in some cases, kennel cough can also develop as a sign of Distemper. Pretty confusing, right? It makes sense, though. Since dogs with Distemper have weakened immune systems, they’re vulnerable to secondary infections due to pathogens, like the Bordatella bronchiseptica.

Compared to Distemper, kennel cough is a lot easier to treat. Veterinarians normally prescribe antibiotics to infected dogs and tell their owners to isolate them in a well-humidified room until they recover. Throughout the recovery period, it’s also recommended that they drink lots of water, eat healthy foods, and get enough rest daily. Similar to Distemper, if dogs that have kennel cough refuse to eat or drink, they may need to receive intravenous fluids and be fed through a feeding tube.



Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, is a bacterial infection caused by Franciscella tularensis. It’s called rabbit fever since it’s a disease that’s commonly found in rabbits, but dogs (and other animals) that come into contact with an infected rabbit, eat one, or get bitten by an insect that has fed from an infected rabbit can also develop the illness. Tularemia is a pretty scary condition, and if left untreated, can lead to death. Not only does it cause cysts and skin abscesses to develop in infected animals, but similar to Distemper, it can also cause damage to the eyes, lungs, and lymph nodes. The worst part is, it’s a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be passed on to humans.

For treatment, infected dogs are put on antibiotics. Owners are also told to remove all ticks and fleas from their pets to prevent reinfection, as well as the spread of the disease. In most cases, dogs undergo long-term treatment to make sure that the infection is being controlled. During recovery, they’re also monitored closely for any negative changes. The good news is that once dogs recover, they gain lifetime immunity.



Another infection that mimics the signs of Distemper is Listeria. Caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, it causes fever, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, lethargy, and muscle pain. Sound familiar? It almost exactly resembles the gastrointestinal effects of Distemper. However, dogs get pick it up in a completely different way. While Distemper is mainly spread through infective air droplets and feces of infected canines, dogs can contract Listeria by eating contaminated meat or dairy products. To remove the Listeria from food products, they need to undergo pasteurization, which is a process where food is sterilized through heat. However, since unpasteurized food products are believed to have health benefits, they’re readily available on the market. To keep your dog safe, simply avoid giving them unpasteurized food items.

Dogs with Listeria are generally treated with antibiotics, fluid therapy, gastrointestinal medications, and in some cases, pain medications. They may also need to be admitted to the animal hospital for veterinary care and proper monitoring until they’re back on their feet, or paws, for that matter.


So, which disease do you think resembles Distemper the most? Let us know in the comments!

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