Treatment of CDV has changed little over a number of years.  Therapy is supportive and nonspecific.  All cases will benefit from treatment, however, if severe neurological signs are present, these are irreversible and humane euthanasia is likely the best option.  Systemic, non-neurologic signs are reversible, but owners should always be warned of the possibility of neurological signs developing as a sequela. (2) The prognosis is guarded in all animals with clinical disease, it is poor in young, unvaccinated animals and poor once neurological symptoms develop. (9)

Dogs with upper respiratory tract infections should be kept in a clean and warm environment and the face kept clear of discharges.  Secondary bacterial invaders, such as Bordetella bronchiseptica frequently leads to pneumonia.  Thus treatment with a broad spectrum antibiotics as well dog on ivas expectorants is recommended.  The newer florfenicol should be considered for treatment over some of the previously favored antibiotics.  It is advisable to perform a transtracheal lavage and submit samples for culture and sensitivity to ensure the antibiotic chosen is sufficient.  (2,8)

If vomiting and diarrhea are present then food, water, and any oral medications should be discontinued, and parenteral antiemetics can be administered.  Isotonic fluid should be delivered to the patient either intravenously or subcutaneously and B vitamins should be supplemented to replace the deficit due to diuresis and anorexia.  B vitimins may help to stimulate the appetite.  Vitamin C supplementation may be of some use in animals with acute systemic signs. (2)

Animals with progressive neurological disturbances that are incompatible with life should be euthanized.  However, animals with less severe neurological signs should be treated with dexamethazone to help relieve CNS edema.  Administration of parenteral diazepam after systemic symptoms of the disease appear but before seizures are observed may serve to prevent seizure pathways from being established. (2)

There are several long term problems that may result from canine distemper virus infection.  Neurologic signs of seizures may require chronic treatment, myoclonus (link to defintions) will be a chronic rhythmic contraction of certain muscle groups, and optic neuritis may cause scarring of the retina but does not normally lead to blindness.  Some animals will retain the hyperkeratotic lesions on the edges of their foot pads and nasal planum.  (10)

Viral Characteristics
Clinical Signs
Transmission and Risk
Other Species
Treatment and Prognosis
Medical Dictionary