This section is from the book "Sporting Dogs. Their Points And Management In Health, And Disease", by Frank Townend Barton. Also available from Amazon: Sporting Dogs; Their Points and Management in Health and Disease.
By far the commonest of these specific canine ailments is distemper.
This malady is only too well known amongst owners and breeders of sporting dogs, and to its almost constant presence in certain kennels the rearing of puppies is seriously handicapped. It is readily communicable from one dog to another more particularly the young—either by direct or indirect means.
Some kennels are singularly exempt from its presence, whereas others are hardly ever without it.
In the latter case, the disease obviously exists upon the premises, measures for its extinction having been inadequately carried out.
One would hardly credit the multifarious channels through which this canine scourge can be propagated.
Feeding utensils, benches, the hands and clothing of attendants, hampers, collars and chains, bedding, water vessels, by contact of the diseased and healthy, and possibly by wind carrying the dessicated discharges, are all liable to become active agents for the production of the malady.
So varied is distemper in its method of attack, that the most expert professional may ignore its existence. Previous to the development of the symptoms, there is the so-called period of incubation, i.e., the time during which the germs are, as it were, dormant, though in reality they are maturing, the advent of their maturation being the development of the specific lesions designated distemper. By far the commonest manifestation of this horrible canine scourge is that in connection with the mucous membranes lining the eyelids, and upper air passages.
Possibly these are the chief portals for the entrance of the germs, and if the specific poison would only confine its ravages to these regions, the ultimate results would be of a much less serious nature.
No amount of good government will confine the assaults of the germs to positions so readily accessible to amelioration by medicinal applications, bronchial and pneumonic complications being common results, or what is, equally severe, bowels and brain lesions supervene, proving an additional source of depleting an already weakened economy. Masters of Foxhounds and proprietors of other dogs, are, we fear, only too well acquainted with the truth of this statement. The usual period of incubation is from four to fourteen days, and this should be borne in mind, so that any puppies that have been in contact with the disease may be isolated, and their temperatures taken for the next two or three weeks night and morning. The normal temperature is 101° Fahr. or a trifle over ; therefore, if the mercury rises above 102° Fahr. in the morning— more particularly so—this is sufficient to warrant the animal's separation from the rest of the puppies.
It has been stated that distemper may exist without any rise of temperature, or even the presence of catarrhal signs, but the author does not attach the slightest importance to such statements, and claims an experience equal to that of any other veterinary expert.
If there is no rise of temperature, no prostration, and no catarrhal signs, one may at once conclude that the animal is not affected with distemper.
Dulness, loss of appetite, sneezing, redness, heaviness of the eyes, slight husky cough, and, it may be, vomiting, are the premonitory signs of distemper.
If temperature be taken in the rectum or vagina, it will probably be about 103° or 104° Fahr.—the best positive evidence. There will generally be either constipation—more especially if a young dog —or an opposite condition of the evacuations. One well-known M.R.C.V.S. believes that distemper in adult dogs is of very rare occurrence.
This is not the author's experience, he having encountered and treated numerous cases when the animals have had distinct attacks of distemper two, and three times. Like scarlatina, measles, small-pox,, etc., in the human subject, once the patient has passed through a well-marked attack of the disease, it is to a great extent "protected," but certainly not immune, to succeeding ones.
There is indisputable evidence in support of this statement, even the oldest observers being aware of its truth.
Following upon the preliminary symptoms already indicated, there is a profuse discharge from the nasal and ocular openings, at first watery in character, subsequently creamy.
The discharge (unless cleaned off) irritates the margin of the eyes, occluding these and the nasal openings.
Sometimes the malady remains in this—the so-called simple or catarrhal form—for several days, and then convalescence begins.
In the case of coarse-bred dogs (mongrels, etc.) the foregoing is the usual condition of affairs. Bronchial and lung troubles are frequent, and probably more puppies die from the broncho-pneumonia of distemper than from other causes. Bronchitis is indicated by frequent attempts at expectoration, and the so-called " rale," heard within the chest. This sound is due to the air passing through the inflammatory exudate in the tubes. If pleurisy is present, there will, during the earlier stages, be friction or dry rubbing sounds, heard when the ear is placed against the chest wall. It is generally associated with varying degrees of pneumonia, either single or double. Quick breathing—more especially noticeable in the region of the flanks—is the best guide as to its presence for the amateur physician. Dropsy of the chest is not at all an uncommon result of pleuritic inflammation.