Very Worried - Symptoms of Distemper

by Crystal Robinson
(Justin, TX, USA)



I have a 4 month old shih tzu and she has started shaking her right leg and her head. she also foams at the mouth when she does this. this last for about 20 seconds or so and then she acts like nothing has happened.

She is normal, responds to commands, plays, runs, ect. I have read some about seizures and she is not really acting like most dogs do after they have one. does anyone have any idea what could be wrong with her?? please help me!

Reader Comments

Apr 10, 2012: if you're confused or worried about what's going on with your dog, it's better if you see a vet. It's hard to take risks because you got no clue what causes it. I hope your pup gets better soon.

Apr 11, 2012: Karen says: It sounds like she might have a slight seizure disorder. what does the vet say? Actually this can be easily controlled with medication if indeed it is a seizure disorder. Let me know what you find out.

Apr 15, 2012: Crystal replied: To those who were wondering i did take her back to the vet and it turns out she has distemper. i can not believe this im so heart broken over this. i found out today and have not been able to stop crying.

she had all her shots but the vet said she prob got it from the breeder. she is on pain med right now and so far they have not helped much. i feel like im a losing a child and i just cant do anything about it.

please keep my puppy in your thoughts and pray she will make it but the vet said its not looking good. thanks guys, will keep you posted

Apr 25, 2012: Crystal posted:
she has passed away :(

Reader responses:
Apr 27, 2012: i'm sorry to hear that. your pup is in a good place now. in time your heart will be healed. have faith.

Aug 15, 2012: I feel sorry about her. Anyway, at least now she is at peace now. Try to get another dog. It might help you to move on. I hope you are doing fine.

Our Answer

Oh dear Crystal, we’re so sorry to hear that your puppy succumbed to this terrible disease.

Even though your question was posted last year I wanted to talk more about distemper, how it is contracted and how it can be prevented. So I decided to come back to your story and share it again on my blog with other readers.

Your story may save the lives of other dogs and spare other owners from going through the same painful experience.

We hope you took some solace in knowing you did everything you could for your puppy. Did you end up getting a new dog? If so, we’d love to see a photo and hear about the new baby. Thank you again for opening up this opportunity for other new Shih Tzu owners to be educated about canine distemper.

What is Distemper?

Thanks to vaccinations, education and improved breeding standards, distemper is not as common as it once was, which is one reason why the early symptoms of the disease are often overlooked. The ASPCA describes distemper as “a virus that affects a dog’s … gastrointestinal, respiratory and central nervous systems as well as the conjunctival membranes of the eye.”

Once the distemper virus establishes itself in the dog’s system the animal becomes vulnerable to secondary bacterial invaders such as pneumonia, tonsillitis and diarrhea. The combination of virus and bacteria makes distemper very difficult to treat.

How do Dogs Get It?

The distemper virus is both airborne and passed through contact with body fluids. Dogs can catch it by coming into contact with the blood, saliva or urine of an infected dog and by exposure to a sick dog’s cough or sneeze. When dogs are kept in close quarters or unsanitary conditions distemper can spread quickly; however, distemper isn’t always the fault of an unscrupulous breeder. The virus can be present anywhere.

What are the Symptoms?

All dogs are susceptible to distemper. No breed or age is exempt, but puppies and young dogs are more vulnerable to the disease. The earliest symptoms are similar to those of a cold: watery eyes, sneezing, loss of appetite, diarrhea, running nose and cough.

If your puppy exhibits any of these symptoms take him to the vet immediately; they could be an indicator of distemper, parvovirus or other serious ailments. Even something as minor as an upset stomach can be serious to a tiny Shih Tzu puppy that can become dehydrated or emaciated in a short amount of time.

More advanced symptoms of distemper include discharge from the nose and eyes, increased thirst, watery stools, seizures and vomiting.

What Can Be Done?

There is currently no direct treatment for the distemper virus, though the secondary complications can be treated with antibiotics and IV fluids. Unfortunately, if your Shih Tzu contracts distemper the outcome is grim. Most dogs do not survive treatment and those that do are typically left with life-long health problems such as disorders of the central nervous system, brain or nerve damage.

Vaccinations aren't 100 percent effective, but they are the best tool for preventing distemper. Be certain your puppy receives her first vaccination at no later than eight weeks old and follow up as recommended by your veterinarian. Until your pup’s received all her shots keep her away from dog parks, kennels or other environments where infected dogs might be.

Our hearts go out to Crystal and all the Shih Tzu moms and dads who’ve lost their precious companions to this terrible disease. If you know of a family who’s planning on adopting a puppy, educate them about distemper and the importance of timely vaccinations. You just might be saving a life.

Comments for Very Worried - Symptoms of Distemper

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Jan 06, 2017
my puppy has a distemper ;-(
by: Anonymous

i have a 7months old shihtzu and she has a distemper. please help me

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