Learning About Vet Care For Pets And Farm Animals

« Back to Home

Caring For Your Dog: Understanding The Distempter Vaccine

Posted on

When you adopt a dog and take them for their first visit to the vet, your vet is likely to recommend your dog gets several different vaccines to protect it from various illnesses and diseases. However, many vaccinations may be for illnesses that are unfamiliar to you and you may find yourself unsure as to whether you should go ahead with all of these pet vaccinations. While rabies vaccines are required by law, many others, like the distemper vaccine, are not (depending on the state in which you live). As such, if you are feeling hesitant about your new dog's vaccines, get to know more about some of the illnesses that the distemper vaccine will protect against so you can make the right choice for your dog.

Distemper Virus

The distemper vaccine (as it is commonly called) is actually a combination vaccine known by veterinarians as DHPP and protects your dog against distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. Canine distemper is a serious viral infection in dogs that can be transmitted in the air or from direct contact with objects touched by an infected dog (as well as with the dog itself).

It causes problems with the lymph nodes and tonsils first before it spreads to the respiratory system and the nervous system. Distemper can cause a high fever, seizures, coughing, diarrhea, anorexia, and swelling and hardening of the foot pads. This virus can be fatal and has no cure once a dog contracts it.


Hepatitis is another highly contagious canine illness.Infectious canine hepatitis is a viral infection that primarily affects the liver and that can lead to serious secondary bacterial infections, problems with the fluid balance in the body, and liver failure (in some cases). Again, there is no cure available once a dog has been infected.

This viral infection causes issues with the spleen, lungs, eyes, and kidneys as well as the liver. As such, the symptoms can be varied, including coughing, excessive drinking and urination, cloudy eyes, jaundice, pain in the throat and abdomen, and even seizures and organ failure.


Canine parainfluenza is another common virus among dogs. This virus affects the lungs and respiratory system and is the viral cause of what is known as kennel cough (there are also bacterial infections that cause kennel cough). It is highly contagious and runs the risk of causing serious complications in an infected dog, particularly if they have a compromised immune system.

The symptoms of parainfluenza in dogs include severe hacking cough or coughing up phlegm, nasal discharge, sneezing, fever, and gagging that may cause vomiting. In some cases, a dog may develop pneumonia from parainfluenza. While generally not life-threatening, this viral infection cannot be cured after a dog has contracted it and it can be quite uncomfortable for your beloved pet.


The fourth and final canine disorder treated by the DHPP vaccine is parvovirus. This potentially life-threatening virus has two forms, an intestinal and a cardiac form. Neither have a cure once contracted.

The intestinal parvovirus is more common and causes serious digestive problems. The symptoms of intestinal parvovirus include diarrhea, vomiting, a lack of appetite, a fever, bloody stool, anorexia, and dehydration. Intestinal parvovirus can be fatal but symptoms may be manageable if IV fluids and other treatments are administered effectively and quickly.

On the other hand, the cardiac version of parvovirus affects the heart muscles, causing them to contract incorrectly affecting the rhythm of the heart. This type of parvovirus often affects young puppies and is usually fatal because of the effect it has on the heart muscles.

Now that you know all that the distemper vaccine can protect your dog against, you can better decide whether or not this vaccination is right for your new dog. Remember that while you may not think your dog will ever be directly exposed to these viruses, all it can take is one encounter to cause infection. For more information, talk to a professional like Berlin Township Animal Hospital.