North Hollywood, California.
OF all diseases to which dogs are subject, distemper is perhaps the most frequent, it is also the most difficult to define. It has been compared to typhoid, or to typhus fever in man, though the comparison hardly seems to be a good one. The disease seems to be contagious. We say “seems to be,” because back of all contagious diseases, in man or beast, is an element which no one can explain. Of a dozen men or dogs, exposed to a contagious disease, a certain number may contract the disease, while the remainder, though equally exposed, will escape. When we are able to explain this we will know more of contagious diseases than we do now. However, distemper is to be mechanically classed as a contagious disease.
It is far more apt to attack young dogs and those known as “pure-bred,” than old dogs and the dog rabble, but at any rate, if a dog shows signs of the disease it is best to isolate him from other dogs, if any be kept about the place. The symptoms vary considerably. The following picture is drawn by Blaine:.
One of the earliest symptoms is a short dry cough, which is followed by a lessening of the appetite, of the flesh, of the strength, and spirits; the coat also begins to stare, the eyes to wink in a full light, as though painfully affected by it; they also, if observed in the morning. exhibit the remains of a little hardened mucus, which may be seen adhering to the inner corner of each, while a general cloudiness of the eye steals over its surface; the nose also is bedewed with a watery discharge, greater or less as the membraneous linings of the orbits and nasal cavities are more or less inflamed, in which state it may sometimes remain for two or three weeks without much alteration;
it eventually, however, increases, and changes from a limpid, watery fluid to a muco-purulent discharge (something like the discharge from an abscess) which flows down the face from the inner corner of each eye, and as the disease becomes more intense, it frequently closes up the lids during the night, and blinds the dog until his efforts have opened them.
The nasal discharge, which is at first thin and watery, becomes muco- purulent, and later one of direct pus, by which his nose is more or less closed up each morning by the viscid exudations like the poor dogs eyes. As the intensity of the inflammation extends, the cough also, which was at first a slight huskiness (or perhaps hardly existed at all, for in some cases but little cough attends the early stages) increases to a distressing harsh sounding one, and frequent attempts to force something up the throat by an effort that appears compounded of coughing and vomiting. To these appearances are usually added wasting, weakness, listlessness and lessening of the appetite also.
Remembering that dogs cannot relate their symptoms or feelings, I would be inclined to regard the foregoing picture as being nearer to “Grippe” than to either typhoid or typhus.
Hurndall has to say: “I regard distemper as a catarrhal fever, affecting more or less severely, the mucous membranes of the various canals of the body, the nervous system being not infrequently implicated.”.
Lord says: “A contagious disease of which all dogs appear to carry the seeds in their system, accompanied with fever and derangement of most of the internal organs, and frequently ending in chorea, paralysis or inflammation of the lungs.” If the seeds of the disease are in the system, it can hardly be termed a contagious disease.
Moore says: “The symptoms present considerable variations, which depend upon the rapidity of the disease, the character of the prevailing epidemic and the local complications.”.
Mills, after stating that the symptoms are very numerous and varied, concludes that” it will not be feasible to enumerate all the combinations that occur, as these are simply endless.”.
From the foregoing, the reader will see that distemper, the worst of dog diseases, is a rather meaningless term, and that the only way to intelligently treat the disease is to individualise the cases, i.e.; do not think of the name of the disease, but look for the symptoms in the dog.
At the outset, if the dog is feverish, or chilly and feverish by turns, and restless, give him Aconite, as this great polychrest arrests more diseases in their incipiency than any other remedy. Or, should the dog appear dull, feverish and stupid, “drunken looking,” give him Gelsemium. The difference between the two is that Aconite has restlessness prominent in its pathogenesis, whilst Gelsemium is characterised by a dull, sluggish besotted condition. These two, Aconite and Gelsemium, are only of use in the beginning of the disease. If they do not check it, resort must be had to others, as indicated.