This section is from the book "A Manual Of Toy Dogs: How To Breed, Rear, And Feed Them", by Leslie Williams. Also available from Amazon: A Manual Of Toy Dogs: How To Breed, Rear And Feed Them.
As a matter of actual fact, there is no such disease as distemper. There are two diseases, or two groups of diseases, both more or less contagious, which, for want of skilled diagnosis, are indifferently so named, but their popular designation is so firmly rooted that "distemper" will be with us to the.end of the chapter, and so long as the disease is properly treated it matters little whether we call it bronchial catarrh, gastro-enteritis, typhoid, or distemper. Perhaps, in a manual not intended for the learned, it will be most useful, as it is certainly most simple, and, I think, practical, to speak of "two forms of distemper," since the chest and lung diseases of the dog all call for one sort of home treatment, and the more ordinary diseases of the intestinal tract can with safety be lumped together as needing another fairly uniform style of treatment. Further than this the non - medical dog owner is not wise to venture, since it is quite as necessary that a canine patient should have skilled advice as that it should be called in for his master - that is, if his recovery is desired.
Roughly speaking, then, there are two kinds of distemper - that which affects the nose, throat, and chest, and in slight cases may pass as being only a very bad cold, and that which affects the intestinal canal, involving the whole alimentary system. This latter is certainly the more troublesome for an amateur to treat, and decidedly the more fatal; but, fortunately, the former is the more common. It is very easy to tell when a dog is the subject of distemper in the catarrhal form, and when in this state he is, I think, much more likely to do well if carefully nursed at home; but in the typhoid form it requires skilled nursing to do the case justice, and the physical conditions are such that if - it is a big " if " - the right sort of vet can be found, the dog has a better chance with him.
The symptoms of catarrhal distemper are shivering, feverishness - temperature generally not very high at first, but a degree or two over the normal - profuse discharge from the eyes and nose, and, in short, all those of a bad, feverish cold; and the treatment may be exactly that which we should give a child under the same circumstances. The great thing, in both forms, is to keep up the strength from the very beginning; this is far more important than giving medicine of any kind, and if the patient will not eat, he should be given food forcibly. I do not by this mean that a large quantity of food should be forced upon the unwilling animal; he should have about two teaspoon-fuls of some invalid nourishment every two hours, and this should be as varied as possible, and kept as sweet and dainty as if for a human patient. A raw egg beaten up with the smallest possible quantity of milk; a little good beef-tea, made by cutting lean, raw beef into small cubes, and slowly drawing all the goodness out of it in an earthenware jar, tightly covered, in the oven, only two tablespoonfuls of water to the pound of meat being added; veal broth similarly made; arrowroot, with a few drops of the juice of raw meat added; strong chicken tea, with a little rice boiled in it and strained out - all these may be rung upon for change.
Some dogs will eat solid food all through the disease, and this simplifies matters immensely. Where, there is no appetite, liquids or semi-liquids must be given. Concentrated foods and other invalid preparations, though useful on occasion, very soon pall and sicken the patient, and while it saves trouble to use things like this, they have not the same effect in keeping up the strength as good, honest home-cookery. The necessity for thus dieting and feeding is the same in either form of distemper, and the dog must not be left all night without attention, but fed at intervals then also. Warmth and evenness of temperature come next in importance. A little flannel jacket or crossover, made of thick, new flannel, is as good as poultices, and should be put, and kept, on well into convalescence, when, of course, it must not be left off too suddenly. I do not say anything about medicine, actual poulticing, etc., because a distemper patient, in view of the complications which are always apt to arise in this disease, should be nursed under skilled veterinary direction.
I only insist on the need for feeding up and warmth.
Distemper patients cannot go out of doors, in cold weather, unless there is to be no regard to the great risk they run in such a change of temperature; therefore, as soon as the disease declares itself, it is well to settle the patient somewhere where a tray of earth can be provided, absolute quiet maintained, and an even warmth kept up, and here let the disease run its course.
Relapses from distemper are even more serious than the first attack, and they are very apt to occur where the patient is allowed to go out, or move about too soon or too much. Stimulants - brandy and port wine - are very useful where the weakness is great, and champagne will often be kept down where water or broth would be rejected.
The "new" disease, commonly called the Stuttgart disease, which has created so much excitement among dog owners during the last year or two, and is of the nature of gastritis, or inflammation of the lining membrane of the stomach, spreading upwards and downwards, calls in some ways for quite a different treatment to that of the typhoid form of distemper. They are alike in this : that a teaspoonful or so of iced champagne or iced soda and milk, will sometimes be retained where nothing else will, but in gastric catarrh, or gastritis, the patient must not be allowed to drink water, or to make the slightest exertion.
It may, perhaps, be as well to state what, I suppose, is not yet known to all dog owners - namely, the fact that it is by no means a necessity for a toy, or any other dog for that matter, to have distemper. Like scarlet fever in the human subject, distemper may occur in a dog's life, or may not. The child takes scarlet fever if it has been in the way of infection, and the dog distemper if the contagion has been conveyed to it either by some person who has been near an affected dog, by that dog itself, or by some article on which infected discharges of any kind have been deposited.
The one quarrel we all have with shows is that they certainly offer opportunities of spreading distemper to people who do not consider its existence in their kennels a sufficient reason for withholding entries, and carry the contagion with them, although the dogs they exhibit may be in themselves unaffected. An old-fashioned piece of advice in distemper, and one always given, was that at the outset of the disease a dose of castor oil, or some other aperient, should be administered. I have no hesitation at all in saying that whereas castor oil - to the dog a violent irritant purgative - has carried off many and many a puppy and delicate adult that, if not so weakened just when all the reserve forces of strength were most needed, might have pulled through, this practice is a most mistaken one, to say the least of it. If there is any probability of there being any collection in the intestine which needs clearing away, pure olive oil will do all, and more than castor oil, and will neither cause the pain at the time nor the subsequent constipation, which will be the inevitable results, if there are no worse ones, of the stronger, and, I must call it, vile, drug. Another fallacy is the supposed desirability of constantly washing the eyes and nose with warm water.
This is often not properly dried off, and chill results, while all the fuss and worry is quite needless and does no good. A little bit of old linen rag may be torn up and the fragments used to clean off the discharges and at once burnt. Once, or even twice, a day a sponge damped with boracic lotion can be used, but very sparingly.
The watchword in distemper, as I said before, is nursing - good nursing alone will pull most dogs through - and I deliberately refrain from giving any prescriptions, because, as each case varies according to circumstances and the patient's constitution, each should be prescribed for on its merits.
For far too long we have gone on in a rough-and-ready rule-of-thumb method of dosing dogs all in the same way, without regard to idiosyncrasy, which all the time has been as marked in them as in human kind - and the sooner we change all this and study each dog after its kind, the better for them and for us.