Canine Distemper Vaccination for Your Pooch

by Manya Vaish

Canine Distemper is a highly contagious disease, caused by a virus that can attack your dogs’ respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous system. The disease can even affect your pooch’s conjunctival eye membranes. So, giving your dogs’ timely vaccinations is as essential as giving them food and a healthy lifestyle. 

Distemper Vaccination for Dogs

Photo by Juan Gomez on Unsplash

We all want our dogs to live a healthy, happy, and long life. And to do so, it is necessary to keep their essential vaccinations up-to-date. 

Canine Distemper vaccination is a core vaccination and it typically protects your dogs against more than just Distemper. This is because the Canine Distemper vaccine is given in a variation of a combination of vaccines that protects your furry companions from several diseases together.

Timeline for Canine Distemper Vaccine

The exact combination of your pooch’s Distemper vaccine depends on their age and other factors. However, DHPPV, DA2PPV, DA2PP, and DHPP are the most common combinations given to treat Distemper in dogs. 

The first shot of Distemper vaccination is given at about six to seven weeks of age. Boosters are then given to adult dogs at 2 years of age (two doses, 3-4 weeks apart), every 3 years.

You can also get the full list of all the vaccinations and schedules for your dogs here.

What is Canine Distemper?

Distemper in your dogs can be caused by a contagious virus called Canine Distemper Virus (CDV). The infection spreads through nose, mouth, or eye secretions (from sneezing and coughing) and is easily transmitted to other dogs as well. It can lead to severe illness in the host by attacking multiple body systems. The disease has no specific cure and is preventable only through vaccinations. 

 Distemper vaccination importance

Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

The infection is also known as “hard pad disease” as some strains of the virus might thicken the skin of your dogs’ paw. 

As the virus attacks the lymph nodes, respiratory system, and gastrointestinal tracts, a pus-like discharge, runny nose, and other primary symptoms can be seen. However, as the days of sickness progress and the disease becomes more fatal, signs of seizures and dehydration occur. The infection may lead to paralysis and death.

It is better to avoid the disease before-hand by treating your dogs with essential and timely vaccines.

How Can Canine Distemper be Prevented?

Distemper is preventable and the disease once caused has no cure. You can protect your dogs from catching the infectious Canine Distemper disease by following the simple steps:

  • Make sure your pooch gets the full series of distemper vaccinations on time.
    • Avoid gaps in vaccinations and get boosters as required.
    • Keep your dogs away from infected and sick animals.
    • Be careful socializing your unvaccinated dog with other dogs in areas where they congregate.

    Distemper combination of vaccines

    Image by Allison Peterson from Pixabay 

    Vaccinations always help your dogs to fight with all kinds of infections and save them from contagious and fatal diseases. So, follow the recommended schedules of vaccinations for your canine companions and give them a long life.

    How Does Canine Distemper Spread?

    Distemper in dogs can spread through direct contact or airborne exposure. When an infected dog coughs, sneezes, or barks, they release aerosol droplets infecting nearby animals and surfaces (like food and water bowls).

    Although the virus does not last long in the environment and can be killed by using disinfectants, the infected dogs might carry it for a longer time. 

    There are three ways your dogs can catch Canine Distemper:

    • Through direct contact with an infected dog.
    • Through air and environment near the infected dogs.
    • Through the placenta (from female dogs to their puppies).

    Symptoms of Canine Distemper

    Distempered dogs can experience various symptoms depending on the stage of the disease. 

    Initially, the virus attacks the lymphatic tissue of the respiratory system before infecting the rest of the dogs’ body parts including- lymphatic tissue, respiratory tract, GI tract, urogenital epithelium, central nervous system, and the optic nerves. 

    The symptoms can be characterized under two stages:

  • Stage One-
  • The first symptoms observed in every dog suffering from Distemper are watery to pus-like discharge through eyes, fever, runny nose, and loss of appetite. The overall symptoms faced by dogs in the first stage of Distemper include-

    • Fever
    • Clear nasal discharge (runny nose)
    • Lethargy
    • Anorexia
    • Coughing
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Purulent discharge from eyes
    • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
    • Hyperkeratosis of paw pads and nose

    Distemper vaccination schedule

    Image by birgl from Pixabay 

    A secondary bacterial infection follows, attacking the immune system and leading to the respiratory and GI symptoms like-

    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Difficulty in breathing
    • Pneumonia
  • Stage Two-
  • As the disease progresses and attacks the central nervous system, your dogs might develop neurological signs such as-

    • Head tilt
    • Circling
    • Seizures
    • Repetitive eye movements (Nystagmus)
    • Muscle twitching
    • Convulsions with increased salivation
    • Partial or full paralysis
    • Death

    Symptoms might vary from one dog to another depending on the severity of the disease. Even if your dogs survive, they usually suffer from permanent, irreparable nervous system damage. 

    How to Treat Canine Distemper?

    There is no cure for Distemper. Veterinarians diagnose the disease and provide supportive care to the dogs suffering from Distemper. Symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration are treated and secondary infections are prevented. 

    The chances of your pooch to survive and the length of infection depends on the strength of their immune system and strain of the virus. 

    The best solution is to provide your dogs’ with their essential vaccinations as recommended by your vet. 


    Vaccinations are an important part of your dogs’ life. It is the first step you can take towards their protection. So, to save your dogs and help them fight with all the infections like Distemper, provide them with timely vaccinations and healthy meals.

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