Why Is My Dog With Distemper Crying?

Dr. Joe Alcorn, M.S., D.V.M.

Dr. Joe Alcorn is founder of Care Animal Hospital in Temecula, California. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and his advice has been featured in large publications like Bustle and Martha Steward.

Home » Blog » Why Is My Dog With Distemper Crying?

Distemper is a hard time for dogs. It’s also fatal so it’s important that you take care of your dog. You may notice your dog crying or howling when it has distemper and this article will help explain to you why.

Why Is My Dog With Distemper Crying?

Your dog with distemper may be crying because of the symptoms of distemper. It may be connected to the neurological damage and making your dog feel sick. Your dog may be in pain or crying for help.

Distemper can be uncomfortable to dogs so it’s important that you know how to help manage its pain. It’s important to give your dog proper care and treatment. There is no cure for distemper and you can only manage its symptoms so It’s better that you consult with me to take the proper steps.

An image of a sad dog

What Is Distemper in Dogs?

Distemper is a disease caused by the paramyxovirus that is fatal to your dog. It can spread to animals and even the environment. This virus attacks multiple body systems that can cause irreparable damage to your dog.

Distemper can cause complications, especially in the neurological system of your dog. Hence, it’s important that you get your dog’s vaccination up to date if you want to avoid it. Otherwise, you’re going to be spending a lot of money on hospitalization.

How Do Dogs Get Distemper?

As I said before, distemper is highly contagious and may be in places you are unaware of. Your dog can catch it if:

  • It makes direct contact with an infected animal, food, water, or object.
  • Exposed to the airborne form of the virus
  • Spread through the placenta (for unborn litter)

Think about how the common cold is spread in humans. That’s how distemper also spreads. If you suspect your dog has distemper immediately isolate it so that the virus won’t spread to your other pets.

It’s important to practice proper hygiene and caution when your dog is outside and socializing with other animals. All this can be disregarded if your dog is up to date with its vaccinations.

How to Help My Dog with Distemper?

It’s frustrating to just stand there not knowing what your dog’s cry means. They might be in severe pain and need your comfort. That’s why you should know how you can help your dog with distemper.

Recognize Distemper Symptoms

Early detection of distemper symptoms will help get your dog the appropriate care it needs to recover. Remember, there is no direct cure for distemper and the best thing to do is to manage its symptoms to prevent secondary infection. Here are some symptoms to be wary of:

  • Watery or pus-like eye discharge
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargic
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea

If you notice distemper symptoms, isolate your dog right away (if you have other pets at home), and bring it to me so that an accurate diagnosis of distemper can be tested and rule out other possible diseases.

While waiting for the day of the appointment, make sure your dog stays warm by providing it with a warm blanket and using some hot packs if needed.

Make Sure Your Dog Is Eating and Hydrated

When your dog is suffering symptoms of distemper, it might not have the energy to eat or drink. Hence, it’s up to you to make sure that your dog gets the nutrients that it needs. If your dog refuses to its on its own, there are some methods you can implement:

  • Liquify its food and feed it to your dog using a syringe
  • Make your dog drink water with a syringe
  • I may recommend an appetite-stimulating medication

How Diagnosis for Distemper Works

Only a veterinarian can accurately diagnose your dog with distemper. Some symptoms of distemper may look like other diseases or infections. Hence, it’s best to have your dog checked at Care Animal Hospital instead of self-diagnosing.

A person holding a crying dog with Distemper

We may run some tests to eliminate certain conditions like:

  • Rocky mountain spotted fever
  • Leptospirosis
  • Viral hepatitis
  • Toxin poisoning

I generally take throat, nose, or eye swabs and sometimes urine or bone marrow samples to check for viral infections. Additional tests may be taken like blood or spinal fluid to check for antibodies or take biopsies of the footpad to check for viral DNA.

Treating Canine Distemper

Only vaccination works against canine distemper as prevention. I cannot use antibiotics against the virus since it’s ineffective. Treating a dog for canine distemper involves managing its symptoms and intensive care. If you do place your dog into care treatment, I usually do or administer the following depending on  the dog’s condition:

  • Pain relievers
  • Seizure medications
  • Electrolytes
  • IV nutrition
  • Fever reducers
  • Hospitalization

The best option for your dog is to place it under Care Animal Hospital care immediately when it’s exhibiting symptoms of canine distemper. The best approach is immediate and aggressive treatment. Even then, your dog may have some permanent neurological damage if it survives.

Your dog may be subjected to immune system medications, anti-inflammatories, or steroids to manage the damages. However, it does not reliably produce positive results.

Preventing Distemper in Your Dogs

The only sure way for preventing distemper in your dogs is to get them vaccinated. Other options only lessen the likelihood that your dogs will get it. Here are some preventative measures you can take so your dogs won’t contract distemper:

  • Have your puppies administered a series of vaccinations so they will build immunity to distemper when their immune system is still in development.
  • Never miss your immunization schedule and keep track of your distemper vaccinations to make sure it’s up to date.
  • Avoid making contact with infected animals or outdoors in the wildlife.
  • If socializing is unavoidable, make sure to practice caution and hygiene when interacting with other dogs in public spaces.

Related Questions

How Do You Calm a Dog With Distemper?

Your presence is sometimes enough to calm a dog with distemper. You also may want to give your dog some bit of scratching and stroking to keep it at ease. 

Are Dogs With Distemper in Pain?

Dogs with distemper are often in pain. This is true for dogs who are suffering the effects of distemper like long-lasting seizures and chronic severe pneumonia.


If your dog with distemper is crying, it means it is in pain. You should comfort it and seek advice from me to reduce its pain and manage its symptoms. I can recommend some medications and tips to alleviate the pain.