Cedar Pet Clinic Blog

What You Need to Know About Canine Distemper

Canine DistemperCanine distemper is an extremely contagious viral disease that can wreak havoc on the gastrointestinal, nervous, and respiratory systems of dogs and puppies. Because of routine vaccinations for distemper, it’s possible that you may have never heard of a dog with the disease. At Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo, we review your dog’s vaccine status at every preventive care exam. We encourage you to get your dog’s original vaccine and boosters on time since not being vaccinated is the biggest risk factor in acquiring this serious disease.

How is Canine Distemper Spread?
Your dog can acquire distemper through contact with the saliva, urine, or blood of another dog who already has it. The disease is not spread between people and animals. Something as simple as being near an infected dog who sneezes or sharing a food bowl may be all it takes for your dog to get distemper. Once she has the virus, it moves quickly through the body and can cause the following symptoms:

  • Persistent coughing or sneezing
  • Loose stools
  • Noticeable discharge from the nose or eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Appetite loss
  • Vomiting

Several species of wild animals can also acquire the virus for distemper. For this reason, it’s important to prevent your dog from having contact with coyotes, raccoons, skunks, and other wild animals commonly found in wooded areas.

A pregnant dog can pass the distemper virus to her unborn puppies via the placenta. An infected dog or puppy can continue to shed the distemper virus for many months. In addition to unvaccinated dogs, puppies who are under four months old are at the highest risk of suffering with the symptoms of distemper.

Treating the Symptoms of Distemper
Please contact us to schedule an appointment if you notice any of the above symptoms in your dog. They don’t necessarily mean he has distemper, but it’s important to rule it out. Our main tools of diagnosis include clinical observation and laboratory testing. At present, no cure for canine distemper exists. We seek to treat your dog’s symptoms and make him as comfortable as possible. This may include anti-nausea medication, medication to stimulate appetite, IV fluids to avoid dehydration, and other methods related to specific symptoms.

When to Get Your Dog’s Distemper Vaccination
If a female dog has been vaccinated for distemper, her puppies receive natural immunity from it. Unfortunately, the protection only lasts about six weeks. This makes the window from six to nine weeks the ideal time to get the first vaccination. It is one of five parts of a core vaccination that also includes adenovirus, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. The second dose should occur by 12 weeks and then the first booster at 12 months. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, adult dogs over age one should get a booster every third year.

Image credit: rabbit75_ist | iStock/Getty Images Plus

April is Heartworm Awareness Month

Your dog or cat can acquire heartworm disease from an infected mosquito. It takes just a single bite. Once inside your pet’s body, the heartworm can reproduce and grow up to 12 inches long. Now that the warm weather season is here, your pet has an even greater likelihood of being bitten by an infected mosquito.

Heartworm Awareness Month

When to Start Heartworm Protection
Heartworm are far more prevalent in dogs than they are in cats. However, a cat’s lower body weight and smaller size means that heartworm infestation is more likely to cause death. Prevention is essential since no heartworm protocol currently exists for cats. Puppies can start taking heartworm prevention medication by the age of two months. They don’t need to complete testing while still so young. We do recommend any puppy over age six months has a negative result on a heartworm test before starting any type of prevention product.

Getting a heartworm test for your dog or puppy is a simple procedure that only requires us to obtain a blood sample. With cats, several blood tests may be necessary before one of our veterinarians can make a definitive diagnosis. Kittens can begin a preventive product as soon as they meet the age and weight requirements printed on the product instructions. Most kittens are ready to begin heartworm prevention by nine weeks of age.

Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs and Cats
Dogs with heartworm tend to show varied symptoms due to where the heartworm is located within their body. Common symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Fatigue, with or without exertion
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

With cats, the first sign of heartworm can be difficulty breathing or sudden death. Some pets don’t show any signs of heartworm infestation at all. Keep in mind that even indoor pets still need protection from heartworm disease since it’s easy for infected mosquitos to get inside your home.

How We Treat Dogs for Heartworm Disease
The first step after we identify heartworm in your dog is for him to complete a course of heartworm preventives, antibiotics, and steroids. Once those are complete, he needs to come to Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo several times over the next 60 days for a series of injections that kill adult heartworms. We will need to observe your dog after each injection as well. Approximately six months later, we ask you to bring your dog in for a follow-up. We will check to make sure that no more adult worms or larvae are present.

We Are Happy to Recommend a Specific Heartworm Prevention Product
The effects of heartworm disease can be devastating, but the good news is that it’s entirely preventable. The staff at Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo is happy to recommend a specific brand or type of heartworm prevention product based on your pet’s age, lifestyle, and other factors. If you have additional questions about parasite control or need a demonstration on how to administer medication, please contact us to request an appointment.

2017 Food Drive - The Numbers Are In!

2017 Food DriveFor the seventh consecutive year, Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo partnered with Valley Outreach to collect pet food during the Minnesota FoodShare drive in March. Valley Outreach is a community service organization in Stillwater that provides a food shelf, emergency assistance fund, and a clothing closet to people in the community experiencing temporary financial difficulty.

We are so pleased to announce that this year, thanks to the incredible generosity of our clients and community, we collected 1,080 pounds of food and more than $500 in cash and checks. These contributions support local families and individuals experiencing hardship and allow them to continue caring for their companion animals. We are awed and thrilled by the support this campaign received and sincerely thank everyone for participating.

Anyone can experience a hardship that makes it difficult to continue caring for their pet, such as losing their job or experiencing a health crisis. Helping our neighbors through the hurdle means they don't have to surrender the pet. It's better for the animal, the family, and our entire community to keep pets and their people together. Thanks to your support, that is exactly what what we were able to accomplish.

Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo looks forward to partnering with Valley Outreach again in 2018.

After-Hours Emergencies

After Hours Veterinary Care
1014 Dale Street North
St. Paul, MN 55117
(Inside Como Park Animal Hospital just north of downtown St. Paul)
24-hour care for multiple species

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of MN
1163 Helmo Avenue N
Oakdale, MN 55128


Animal Emergency & Referral Center of MN
1542 7th St. W.
St. Paul, MN 55012
(located 2 blocks east of 35E)