This section is from the book "The Dogs Of Great Britain, America, And Other Countries. Their Breeding, Training, and Management in Health and Disease", by John Henry Walsh (Stonehenge). Also available from Amazon: The Dogs Of Great Britain, America And Other Countries.
The bowels may be known to be seized when there is a violent purging of black offensive matter, often tinged with blood, and sometimes mixed with patches or shreds of a white leathery substance, which is coagulable lymph. The discharge of blood is, in some cases, excessive, and quickly carries off the dog.
If the skin is attacked, which is a favorable sign, there is a breaking out of pustules on the inside of the thighs and belly, which fill with matter, often tinged with dark blood, and sometimes with blood itself of a dark purple color.
It is not an easy matter for an inexperienced observer to distinguish distemper from similar affections, but the practised eye readily detects the difference. The chief diseases which are likely to be confounded with distemper are, the true canine madness, 14 common cold or influenza, inflammation of the lungs, and diarrhoea. The first of these runs a rapid course, and is ushered in by peculiar changes in the temper, which will be described under the head of hydrophobia. Cold and influenza cause no great prostration of strength. The former comes on after exposure to the weather, while the latter is sure to be prevalent at the time. Inflammation of the lungs must be studied to be known; simple diarrhoea has no fever attending upon it
The treatment of distemper is twofold'; care first, being directed to the safe conduct through the lowering effects of the complaint, and second to the warding off of the fatal results which are likely to be occasioned by the local complications in the brain, lungs, or bowels. It must be remembered that the disease is an effort of nature to rid itself of a poison; and, consequently, the powers of the system must be aided throughout, or they will be incompetent to their task. One great means of carrying off this poison, is to be looked for in the bowels and kidneys. These organs must be restored as far as possible to their natural condition, care being ex-ercised that they are not injured by the remedies used. It is well known, for instance, that aparients, and especially calomel, have the property of restoring the suspended action of the liver. But they also have an injurious effect upon the strength of the general system, and therefore must be used with great caution. The best formulae is, (13) or (15) given only once or twice, at intervals of two or three days. After the secretions are restored, the next thing is to look out for the complications in the brain, lungs, and bowels, which are to be expecte.l; and, if present, to counteract them by appropriate remedies.
A seton placed on the back of the neck, covering the tape with blister ointment, will be likely to relieve the head, together with cold applications of vinegar and water by means of a sponge. At the same time the fever mixture (51) may be regularly administered. For any trifling complication in the lungs the fever powder (49) will generally suffice; but, if severe, blood must be taken from the neck vein; though this, if possible, should be avoided, and the cough bolus or draught (46) or (47) be administered. Diarrhoea must be at once checked by one of the mixtures (6) or (8); or, if very severe, by the pill (19). At the same time, rice-water should be given as the only drink; and beef-tea, thickened with arrow-root or rice, as the sole article of diet, changing it occasionally for port wine and arrow-root When the stage of exhaustion has commenced, the tonic mixture (68) will generally be required; and it is astonishing what may be done by a perseverance in its use. Dogs which appear to be dying will often recover.
No case should be given up as long as there is any life remaining.
The diet should be carefully attended to, little or no food being required on the first four or six days, beyond weak broth or gruel, no solid food from the first being permitted. This restriction must be maintained until the dog is quite recovered. When the state of exhaustion or prostration comes on, good strong beef-tea should be given every three or four hours, and, if the dog will not swallow it, force should be used; a spoonful at a time being given in the manner described elsewhere for drenching. Port wine is often of service at such times, being thickened with arrow-root, and given alternately with beef-tea. For a dog of average size, the plan is to give a teacupful of beef-tea, then, after two hours, the same quantity of arrow-root and wine; then, again, after two hours, a dose of the tonic mixture, and so on through the twenty-four hours. Perseverance in this troublesome plan will generally be rewarded with success, but, of course, it is only a valuable dog which will reward it properly.
In less important animals, the beef-tea may be provided, and if it is not voluntarily swallowed, the poor patient often dies for want of the compulsion, so that humanity as well as self-interest counsel the adoption of what often appears a harsh proceeding.
No exercise, even of the most gentle kind, should be allowed, as it invariably tends to bring on a return of the disease. Many a young dog has been sacrificed to the mistaken kindness of his master, who has thought that a "breath of fresh air" would do him good. And so it would, if taken in an easy carriage, at rest; but the muscular exertion necessary to procure it is highly injurious, and should be delayed until the strength is restored. This is one reason why dogs in the country bear distemper so much better than in towns; for, as it is known that they are in the fresh air no attempt is made to take them to it, and so they are left alone and are not induced to exert their strength prematurely. Even when the dog appears nearly well, it is better to lead him out to excercise for the first day or two. Otherwise he is almost sure to over-exert himself.
Ventilation should not be neglected; moderate warmth is essential to a cure, and a delicate dog like the greyhound should have a cloth on him in cold weather. The greatest cleanliness should be observed, and as far as possible without making the kennel damp with water. Clean straw must be liberally provided, and all offensive matters removed as often as they are voided.
Summary of treatment - In the early stage of disease, get the bowels into good order by mild doses of aperient medicine: (11), (13), or (15). Attend to any complications which may come on, using a seton for the head and appropriate remedies for the chest, or mixture for the bowels (6) if there is diarrhoea. For the exhaustion, when the violent symptoms are abated, give the tonic (63); and during the whole period attend to the diet, ventilation, cleanliness, and rest, as previously described.
Vaccination has been recommended as a remedy for distemper, and has been largely tried both in foxhound and greyhound kennels, as well as among pointers and setters. Some people think it a sure preventive, and there is evidence that for years after it has been adopted in certain kennels, distemper, which was previously rife among them, has been held in check. On the other hand, a still more numerous party have found no change produced in the mortality among their dogs, and they have come as a natural consequence to the opposite conclusion. Reasoning from analogy, there is no ground for supposing that small-pox or cow-pox should prevent the access of a disease totally dissimilar to these complaints; inasmuch as experience is the best guide, the appeal must be made to it in order to settle the question. Judging from this test, I can see no reason whatever for the faith which is placed in vaccination, because there are at least as many recorded failures as successes; and as we know that after any remedy there will always be a certain number of assumed cures held out by sanguine individuals, so we must allow for a great many in this particular case.
Distemper is well known to be most irrregular in its attacks, and to hit or miss particular kennels, as the case may be, for years together, and as vaccination is used at any of these various periods of change, so it gains credit or discredit which it does not deserve. After trying it myself and seeing it tried, and after also comparing the experience of others, my own belief is, that vaccination is wholly inoperative; but, as others may like to test it for them-selves, I here append directions for the operation:
To vaccinate the dog, select the thin skin on the inside of the ear, then with a lancet charged with fresh vaccine lymph, make three or four oblique punctures in the skin, to such a depth as barely to draw blood, charging the lancet afresh each time. If the lymph cannot be procured fresh, the punctures must be made as above described, and then the points charged with dry lymph must be introduced, one in each puncture, and well rubbed into the cut surface so as to insure the removal of the lymph from the points. In four or five days an imperfect vesicle is formed, which, if not rubbed, goes on to maturity and scabs at the end of ten days or thereabout. There are various other methods suggested, such as introducing a piece of thread dipped in the virus, etc., but the above is the proper plan, if any is likely to be effectual.
The treatment of the various sequels of distemper, including ' fits, palsy, etc., will be given under those heads respectively