The experienced dog-owner has long ago realised that cleanliness, wholesome food, judicious exercise and a dry, comfortable and well-ventilated kennel are the surest safeguards of health, and that attention to these necessaries saves him an infinitude of trouble and anxiety by protecting his dogs from disease. On the first appearance of illness in his kennels the wise dog-owner at once calls in the skill of a good veterinary surgeon, but there are some of the minor ailments which he can deal with himself whilst he ought at least to be able to recognise the first symptoms of the dreaded Distemper and give first aid until the vet. arrives to apply his remedies and give professional advice.


Although more than one hundred years have elapsed since this was first imported to this country from France, a great amount of misunderstanding still prevails among a large section of dog-breeders regarding its true nature and origin. The fact is, the disease came to us with a bad name, for the French themselves deemed it incurable. In this country the old-fashioned plan of treatment was wont to be the usual rough remedies—emetics, purgatives, the seton, and the lancet. Failing in this, specifics of all sorts were eagerly sought for and tried, and are unfortunately still believed in to a very great extent.

Distemper has a certain course to run, and in this disease Nature seems to attempt the elimination of the poison through the secretions thrown out by the naso-pharyngeal mucous membrane.

Our chief difficulty in the treatment of distemper lies in the complications thereof. We may, and often do, have the organs of respiration attacked; we have sometimes congestion of the liver, or mucous inflammation of the bile ducts, or some lesion of the brain or nervous structures, combined with epilepsy, convulsions, or chorea. Distemper is also often complicated with severe disease of the bowels, and at times with an affection of the eyes.

Causes—Whether it be that the distemper virus, the poison seedling of the disease, really originates in the kennel, or is the result of contact of one dog with another, or whether the poison floats to the kennel on the wings of the wind, or is carried there on a shoe or the point of a walking-stick, the following facts ought to be borne in mind: (1) Anything that debilitates the body or weakens the nervous system paves the way for the distemper poison; (2) the healthier the dog the more power does he possess to resist contagion; (3) when the disease is epizootic, it can often be kept at bay by proper attention to diet and exercise, frequent change of kennel straw, and perfect cleanliness; (4) the predisposing causes which have come more immediately under my notice are debility, cold, damp, starvation, filthy kennels, unwholesome food, impure air, and grief.

The Age at which Dogs take Distemper—They may take distemper at any age; the most common time of life is from the fifth till the eleventh or twelfth month.

Symptoms—There is, first and foremost, a period of latency or of incubation, in which there is more or less of dullness and loss of appetite, and this glides gradually into a state of feverishness. The fever may be ushered in with chills and shivering. The nose now becomes hot and dry, the dog is restless and thirsty, and the conjunctivae of the eyes will be found to be considerably injected. Sometimes the bowels are at first constipated, but they are more usually irregular. Sneezing will also be frequent, and in some cases cough, dry and husky at first. The temperature should be taken, and if there is a rise of two or three degrees the case should be treated as distemper, and not as a common cold.

At the commencement there is but little exudation from the eyes and nose, but as the disease advances this symptom will become more marked, being clear at first. So, too, will another symptom which is partially diagnostic of the malady, namely, increased heat of body combined with a rapid falling off in flesh, sometimes, indeed, proceeding quickly on to positive emaciation.

As the disease creeps downwards and inwards along the air-passages, the chest gets more and more affected, the discharge of mucus and pus from the nostrils more abundant, and the cough loses its dry character, becoming moist. The discharge from the eyes is simply mucus and pus, but if not constantly dried away will gum the inflamed lids together, that from the nostrils is not only purulent, but often mixed with dark blood. The appetite is now clean gone, and there is often vomiting and occasional attacks of diarrhoea.

Now in mild cases we may look for some abatement of the symptoms about the fourteenth day. The fever gets less, inflammation decreases in the mucous passages, and appetite is restored as one of the first signs of returning health. More often, however, the disease becomes complicated.

Diagnosis—The diagnostic symptoms are the severe catarrh, combined not only with fever, but speedy emaciation.

Pneumonia, as we might easily imagine, is a very likely complication, and a very dangerous one. There is great distress in breathing, the animal panting rapidly. The countenance is anxious, the pulse small and frequent, and the extremities cold. The animal would fain sit up on his haunches, or even seek to get out into the fresh air, but sickness, weakness, and prostration often forbid his movements. If the ear or stethoscope be applied to the chest, the characteristic signs of pneumonia will be heard; these are sounds of moist crepitations, etc.