Updated: Feb 23, 2020
The companion dog has been man's best friend for tens of thousands of years. The proof of this was recently uncovered in an ancient grave site, originally discovered in Germany in 1914.
In it lay a man and a woman, buried over 14, 000 years ago. The most surprising aspect of the grave however was the presence of two dogs, buried alongside their human family - one only a puppy when it died.
An analysis of the puppy’s bones and teeth told a surprising tale – not only was this dog not a working dog for its hunter-gatherer owners, it had been nursed through extreme sickness during its infancy – specifically several bouts of canine distemper.
The puppy had been very ill indeed, and would have suffered from frequent vomiting and diarrhoea – without human care it most certainly would have died. Despite surviving, it would never have been strong enough to contribute to the lifestyle of its owners. It was nursed and kept alive solely for the purpose of being a companion dog, presumably to a Mesolithic couple who loved it a very great deal.
14, 000 years later, and canine distemper can still be a fatal disease for your own companion dog, particularly if it is a puppy.
In Australia, cases of canine distemper are infrequent, as dog vaccinations have reduced it to a rarity, however the threat of a reappearance remains if backyard breeders and puppy owners fail to vaccinate their dogs.
As recently as 2018, the owners of a new puppy in Tasmania rushed their new dog to the vet, only to have it die of distemper, and vets in the state were warned to be vigilant for a possible resurgence of the canine distemper virus.
Young dogs and puppies are most susceptible to canine distemper, and it attacks the gut, lungs and nervous system.
Canine Distemper Symptoms include:
· mucus forming in the eyes and nose,
· lack of appetite and
Canine Distemper is transferred from dog to dog through urine, blood or saliva, and for young dogs, it can often be recurring, returning again and again even if the puppy has conquered the first bout. As with the poor puppy in Tasmania, it is frequently fatal.
Puppies that have had their dog vaccinations can still contract the canine distemper virus – however the chance of doing so is much lower.
The safest way to ensure your puppy avoids the virus is to make sure its dog vaccinations are always on time and up to date. Make sure you get your puppy from a reputable and certified breeder who has vaccinated the mother, as some early immunity can be passed on to the puppy – and to keep it safely at home for two weeks after its final vaccination. Parks and places frequented by other dogs will only be safe after that point.
Treatment for the canine distemper virus
If your dog is unlucky enough to have contracted the disease, then the only course of action that can be taken is veterinary care and constant monitoring – similar to what our infant Mesolithic companion dog must have received. In the modern age, intravenous fluids can be used to ensure the dog does not become too dehydrated, while medications for diarrhoea, vomiting and seizures are used to mitigate the damage caused by the worst of the symptoms.
The chances of a dog surviving canine distemper are low, so it is both important and socially responsible to ensure your dog vaccinations are current, to avoid your pet catching it, and to avoid spreading it to other people’s dogs.
There are no herbal treatments for canine distemper, however there are herbs and foods that can, with regular use, lessen your puppy’s chance of contracting the canine distemper virus.
These common foods contain strong antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties, which can assist with not only mitigating virus infection rates, but target some of the secondary infections and issues associated with canine distemper. They also boost the immune system, making your dog’s chance of survival stronger.