The Canine Distemper Vaccine

It’s Immunization Awareness Month, and every prudent dog owner should know about one particularly important vaccine: the canine distemper immunization. Here, an Upper Arlington veterinarian answers dog owners’ most common questions.

What is Distemper, Exactly?

The canine distemper virus attacks a dog’s gastrointestinal and respiratory systems, and has also been known to affect eye membranes and the central nervous system in severe cases. It’s extremely contagious and commonly spread between infected dogs. Fortunately, the canine distemper vaccine is very effective in limiting or preventing the virus from harming our dogs.

How do Dogs Come Down with the Virus?

As mentioned, distemper is very contagious. Almost all dogs get it from coming in contact with another infected dog. It’s also transmitted through contact with other dogs’ fluids, like urine, saliva, or blood. Just playing together or sharing a water dish can be enough for one dog to give the virus to another.

What are the Symptoms?

The first symptoms to appear in most dogs are usually cold-like, such as sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, coughing, and wheezing. Later on, you’ll witness loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, lethargy, depression, and fever. Prompt veterinary attention is required, so bring your dog to your local vet hospital immediately if you see these symptoms.

Is the Distemper Vaccine a Core Vaccination?

Yes, the distemper vaccination is almost always administered in a dog’s first batch of essential immunizations, usually at a young age. There’s a good chance your dog has already been vaccinated! Along with distemper, core vaccines usually include the parvovirus, influenza, and rabies vaccinations.

What if My Dog Needs the Distemper Vaccine?

If your dog hasn’t had the distemper vaccination, make an appointment with your Upper Arlington veterinarian right away. Since there is no cure for the virus—treatment focuses on managing the symptoms, not eradicating the bug—a preventative vaccination is your best bet for having your dog stay at peak health. Ask your vet about any other questions you have about the distemper virus or any core vaccines your pooch needs.