Species: Dog Breed: mutt, street dog Age: 3-6 months
I have an around 4 - 6 month old puppy who was a street dog in Dharamsala India. She was diagnosed with distemper. She has nervous spasms/twitches so they put her on epilon and nutritional supplements. She is growing and getting stronger and at first the twitching slowed down, now it back just as strong and she is crying/whimpering a lot. She eats like crazy and pees and poops just fine. Any thoughts? Thanks, Deb
Dr. Marie replied:
Oh, I'm sorry to hear that Ruby was diagnosed with distemper. That is encouraging that she is improving, however.
Unfortunately, when a dog recovers from distemper and still has tremors, then there is often not much that can be done. It is such a nasty disease. :(
I have done some research for you and have found two things that vets will try using in order to help with the tremors. However, most of the reports say that these drugs usually do not work. The first medication would be to use a drug called procinamide which is usually a medication used to strengthen the heart. There is a thought that it can help to reduce muscle tremors in distemper, but there is no actual evidence to prove that it works.
The second medication is an anti-seizure medication called phenobarbital. I found one case where phenobarb was helpful for a dog with distemper tremors. But, the same vet who discussed this case also had 14 other dogs who did not respond well.
Both of these are prescription medications you would need to get from your vet.
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Thanks for doing the research. I am actually more concerned about the amount of crying. There are not really any great dog vets where I am so that is why I am writing you. I have a nonprofit to help the street dog population here in Dharamsala India .
Anyway, why would she be crying more if she is getting healthier? Could she be relapsing?
Dr. Marie replied:
In my area, fortunately we don't see much distemper at all so I do not have first hand experience for you.
From what I understand though distemper can be very painful.
I've done a little more research for you on veterinary information network (VIN) which is a place where tens of thousands of vets around the world discuss their cases.
I just found one reference from a vet who has had a lot of experience treating distemper and she says that once a dog with distemper develops neurological side effects (i.e. the tremors that you are describing) that they usually do end up being euthanized because of the pain.
I found another vet who was discussing treating a dog after they have distemper and she says that every time she has had a dog that got tremors afterwards it has not survived.
It's going to be a tough call from here. I suppose if this was my case I would try some strong pain medications. But, if things are getting worse then having the dog put to sleep may possibly be the kindest option.
So sorry. And, thank you for trying to take care of this little one.
Dr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.
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