The worst of getting attached to a favourite dog is that he is short-lived at the best, and his loss can only be a question of brief time. Moreover, it is provoking to know that dogs take no sort of care of themselves—they will lie out in the wet and cold— and they are liable to many unexpected ailments. For example, they catch lung complaints in damp and draughts, and not a few fall victims to consumption. Unless the case is obviously simple, when you see that something is wrong, the best way is to consult a good doctor. But that is not always easy to find ; and especially in country districts, the vet, who may be a capable horse or cattle doctor, looks down upon dogs, and often knows little about them. If you live in the town, where favourite dogs are always ailing, there should be no difficulty in getting good advice. If you live in the country, there is pretty sure to be some one trustworthy within reach—an experienced keeper with a kennel, or a sporting farmer who keeps greyhounds, and may be safely trusted for simple diseases.
As I have said repeatedly, there are long odds against the unlucky dogs who are confined in town. The chances are all in favour in every way of the country dogs, who have fresh air and exercise and the free range of the fields. Instinct teaches them to doctor themselves ; when out of sorts, they go in for herbs and grasses, which cool the blood and keep the stomach in tone. So many a serious complaint is averted. But there is one trouble of puppyhood which you must count with, and that is distemper. There is still a popular belief that all dogs must face the ordeal, but that is a delusion, though comparatively few escape it. Sometimes it is taken very mildly, so much so that it may pass for an ordinary cold. Mild or severe, it must run its course, though it will be mitigated or relieved by prompt treatment. Dr. Gordon Stables, an expert on dogs and their diseases, says it is really a fever resulting from blood poisoning. So, till the dog has attained his full growth, the moral is that you should look out sharp for any signs of it. He may have it later all the same, but then I think he has more strength to resist it, and will pull through when otherwise he would have given in. Distemper is not unlike influenza—indeed one form of it is so defined— in its symptoms, its course, and its consequences. When a bad case, it is lowering, emaciating, and depressing, and if the patient does recover, he is apt to suffer from those consequences. Chorea or St. Vitus's dance is one of the most common of them. I have a Scotch terrier now, with an original constitution of iron and extraordinarily strongly built. He caught something like distemper when two years old ; distemper it must have been, but there were none of the warning symptoms, and he was treated too late. The strength of his constitution served to fight it off, but he recovered to be victimised by chorea. For months he went through a course of contortions, and his moanings were painful to hear. I thought seriously of putting him out of his misery, but while there is life there is hope, and I knew the strength of his constitution. Now, though there is constant twitching of the hind legs, especially when sleeping, he seems as happy as any dog need care to be. Gradually the tucked-in tail went up as his loins regained much of their old elasticity, and when he hunts the fields or the hedges, you would never know there was anything the matter. I quote him to show that one need never despair, and also to show that there are limits to a dog's intelligence. Preternaturally sagacious and objecting to pain, he has never learned anything by experience. I believe he caught the disease by lying panting in the blazing sun through a sultry summer, but that may have been excusable, because he was young and foolish. Now, however, he should know that lying out in cold is the worst thing possible for him, and yet in the most bitter days of the winter, though wind and snow touch him up immediately, there is no keeping him in the house.
The first ordinary symptom of distemper is one you should easily discover in a house dog—he loses appetite. Then his nose is hot; he is always running to the drinking-trough; he loses spirit, and is dull and languid. The cheeks begin to shrink and the face has a pinched expression. He is either costive or has a touch of diarrhoea. Then there will be a discharge from the eyes and nose, first watery and afterwards mattery. When you first suspect distemper, it is always safe to give a dose of castor-oil—a dessert-spoonful or a table-spoonful, according to size. If that does not give relief and bring back his appetite, call in advice. In any case, when he does take to his food again he must be strictly dieted, and the food must be light and nourishing. Bovril and beef-tea are good. He should be kept scrupulously clean in a warm room, well ventilated, and the discharge from eyes and nostrils should be sponged away at intervals. Dr. Stables recommends dissolving some chlorate or nitrate of potash in the water, and prescribes the following fever mixture, to be given three times a day in barley water : " Of spirits of ether, from 30 to 120 drops, according to size; of antimonial lime, from 3 to 40 drops," which last, by the way, seems rather a broad margin.
With inflammation of the bowels the poor animal looks deplorably dejected ; no wonder, for he is in great pain, and when the attack is acute his moans are pitiful. The remedy is doses of opiates, but these should be regulated by a doctor. Dogs on the chain, or in confinement, suffer frequently from constipation ; laxative medicines give only temporary relief. The remedy is plenty of exercise when possible, with farinaceous food. If the dog has the run of the country, he will doctor himself; you will see him greedily devouring grasses. Diarrhoea is generally a consequence of cold or exposure to damp. Chalk mixture with laudanum or a few drops of chlorodyne three or four times a day are recommended, and again the food should be farinaceous. Of chorea I have already spoken. It is almost invariably the result of distemper. It is not often, perhaps, that one is so fortunate as I was in saving a favourite from a bad attack. If the dog is young and the whole body is badly affected, the kindest thing is to destroy him at once ; but that is always a question which one is slow to settle. When that dog of mine developed the disease, I wrote to consult one of the greatest living authorities, who makes large sums by his kennel. He recommended good living, fresh air, massage, and warm baths. As for results he would hazard no prediction. But he said that the year before he had two cases in his kennels. In one, which seemed comparatively slight, the victim became a hopeless cripple, and was destroyed; in the more serious case the patient recovered, to take first honours on a show bench at the Crystal Palace.