How Does Supportive Care Help Dogs with Distemper?
As you may already know, there are currently no treatment options available for dogs with Canine Distemper. The only way you can protect your pooch from contracting the incredibly contagious virus is by getting them vaccinated. However, not all dogs are lucky enough to receive a vaccine on time, and many of them are fighting for their lives trying to get better.
Since Canine Distemper is incurable, the only saving grace for infected dogs is supportive care. But what is supportive care? How does it help dogs with distemper?
Supportive care is meant to help an infected dog’s body combat the Canine distemper virus and prevent more infections from taking place while their immune system is in a weakened state. During the supportive care process, dogs with Canine Distemper receive IV fluids, antibiotics, anti-seizure medication, and sometimes even steroids.
Why Do Dogs with Canine Distemper Need IV Fluids?
Three to five days after a dog contracts the Canine Distemper virus, early signs of infection such as fever and loss of appetite take place. Since these signs often go unnoticed, owners won’t always be able to tell that their dog has distemper until the infection reaches the respiratory system and the gastrointestinal tract.
Once the virus enters the gastrointestinal tract, vomiting and excessive diarrhea will follow. When this happens, the amount of fluid in the infected dog’s body will continue to drop and eventually cause dehydration. For that reason, dogs with Canine Distemper will need to receive fluids intravenously until they recover. On top of IV fluids, an antiemetic, which is a medication that prevents nausea and vomiting, such as Maropitant, may also be given to dogs undergoing supportive care to reduce vomiting.
Why Do Dogs with Canine Distemper Receive Antibiotics?
The Canine Distemper virus is incredibly immunosuppressive. That means it can suppress an infected dog’s immune system and make them vulnerable to other disease-causing bacteria present in the environment. The role of antibiotics in supportive care is to help fend off harmful bacteria and prevent secondary infections.
However, a more specific reason why dogs with Distemper receive antibiotics is that the Canine Distemper virus also affects the respiratory system, leaving them incredibly susceptible to developing secondary bacterial pneumonia.
Why Do Dogs with Distemper Need Anti-Seizure Medication?
During the later stages of the infection, an infected dog will begin to display neurological symptoms such as ataxia, paresis, and seizures—seizures being the most common. Once a dog starts seizing, it means that the virus has reached the central nervous system, and will be all the more challenging to beat.
Anti-seizure drugs, such as phenobarbital and potassium bromide, help manage and decrease seizure episodes. The purpose of these medications in supportive care is to help make dogs with distemper feel more comfortable and prevent injuries that can happen during seizures.
In cases where a veterinarian is not around and your dog starts seizing, you can do the following:
- Remove objects near your dog that can injure or hurt their heads. Don’t try to move them to avoid accidentally getting bitten during the episode.
- Refrain from yelling or creating loud noises.
- Lightly apply pressure on your dog’s eyeballs for about 60 seconds, but only if it’s safe for you to do so.
- Don’t try to hold your dog’s mouth.
- Don’t try to put medication in your dog’s mouth while they’re seizing.
- Get emergency help if your dog’s seizure lasts longer than five minutes.
- After the seizure episode, bring your dog to the animal hospital immediately.
Why Do Dogs with Distemper Sometimes Receive Steroids?
Veterinarians rarely use steroids when providing supportive care to dogs with distemper since they work to prevent inflammation by reducing the body’s immune function. For a dog that already has a weakened immune system, taking steroids can increase their vulnerability to infections. However, if an infected dog’s seizures become so severe that anti-seizures alone can’t control it, then veterinarians will have no choice but to use steroids.