Just last month, I saw some Montana headlines about dozens of raccoons being euthanized for distemper in Bozeman and pets in Missoula County being placed under quarantine for rabies. This raises the questions: What is distemper? What is rabies? Is there a difference or are they the same thing?
Here I have broken it down for you in Layman's terms:
Please note: I did not put ALL the symptoms for rabies on my list. There are two different phases of rabies: Furious and Paralytic. The names pretty much describe the symptoms, both result in death.
PRE-EXPOSURE VACCINATION is the only thing that will protect your dog from rabies and distemper. If you think you (or your dog) have been bitten by a rabid animal, wash the wound with soap and water for about 15 minutes immediately. The Rabies virus is very fragile and will most likely be killed by the soap and water before it travels through your body to the brain. BUT, you still need to call your local doctor/ veterinarian for post-bite treatment and protocol. You don't want to mess around and take chances. There is a Post-bite vaccination for humans, but not for domestic animals. If your dog is not vaccinated, he/she will have to be placed in quarantine for approx. 6 months and normal vaccination protocol will be administered. If your dog shows signs for rabies, euthanization will take place. A diagnostic test for rabies involves taking tissue samples of the brain from at least two locations and requires the animal to be euthanized. Distemper cannot be transmitted to humans. There are two types of distemper: Feline and Canine. Canine distemper cannot be passed to felines and vice versa. Rabies on the other hand, can be passed to any animal including humans.
World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs099/en/
Pet Education.com, Rabies in Dogs: Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and vaccination: http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+2102&aid=347
Pet Poison Helpline, Distemper and Rabies: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/uncategorized/distemper-and-rabies/
Monkeysee.com, YouTube video series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBn385Mun6A
Remedy's Health Communities, Rabies: Signs and Symptoms: http://www.healthcommunities.com/rabies/symptoms.shtml
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Caring for Client Animals with Potential Exposure: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/specific_groups/veterinarians/potential_exposure.html