Korie and Distemper

by Roy F. Dvorak


It was stated to us that Korie's seizures may be due to distemper as a puppy. Included here is a picture of Korie at about 5 to 6 weeks old. Notice the fat little tummy that is a sign of a very healthy and well-fed puppy.

{Korie at 6 weeks}

The recommended time to start the distemper vaccination is anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks old. It is at this same time, when the maternal immunity begins to wane. The maternal immunity is really a passive immunity since it passes to the new born pups within the first 24 hours of their life. In the first 24 hours, the mother produces colostrum, an antibody rich component of her milk. To augment the passive immunity, veterinarians have implemented vaccination schedules to stimulate antibody production. Korie’s vaccination records show that her vaccinations were administered one week prior to the recommended minimum vaccination schedule. According to the vaccination records, Korie and her litermattes received their first distemper vaccination at 5 weeks of age.

When CDV (Canine Distemper Virus) effects the skin, the nose and paws develop thick areas on them (somewhat like a callus on the paw). This is known as "hardpad disease". At one time hardpad was thought to be a separate disease, but it is recognized as a strain of CDV. Korie shows no signs - scar tissue or scar marks - on her feet or nose that would indicate any after effects of this type of distemper.

Canine distemper may also affect the eyes by inflaming areas of the retina on the back of the eye. A dog that has been exposed to distemper and recovered would have scar tissue on the retina. The areas of inflammation heal and leave scar tissue. The cornea may be affected by dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) as a secondary symptom to CDV. Korie’s eyes were examined on Tuesday, October 15, 1996, (and yearly since then) by Dr. Stephen J. Dugan, D.V.M., MS, DACVO who operates Eye Specialists for Animals in Denver Colorado and is the ophthalmologist for the Denver Zoo. The eye examination showed that Korie has perfect canine eyes. She has absolutely no signs of any scar tissue on the back of her eyes that would indicate any exposure to canine distemper. Also, she has been successfully registered each year with the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). Korie has very good eyesight too. She is able to catch a quarter sized treat from at least 10 feet away. The figure below shows a cross section of a canine eye.

{Cross section of a canie eye}

Before leaving the subject of distemper, we must mention briefly "subclinical" distemper. A disease is subclinical if it has not reached the stage where it displays its typical signs or symptoms. Some diseases may remain subclinical throughout their course. The text books that we researched did not mention whether distemper could be subclinical. However, if Korie and her littermates were all experiencing subclinical distemper, then all of them must have reached the point of neurological involvement. If Korie and her littermates experienced subclinical distemper, then there should be some residual neurological damage such as gum-chewing, partial paralysis, or problems with balance. If Korie and her littermates experienced subclinical distemper, then their teeth, as they were developing should have developed irregularities on the enamel - Enamel Hypoplasia, i.e. pitted teeth. Korie has perfect canine teeth which her veterinary has commented on during several office visits. Based on Korie’s health and the absence of any neurological damage, we can safely say that Korie did not have subclinical distemper.

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