From the AVMA brochure, revised March 2010
Canine Distemper Vaccine
Canine distemper vaccine is a combination vaccine that includes up to five different vaccines. Canine distemper virus is the first vaccine included in the distemper vaccine. Other vaccines are: adenovirus, parvovirus, parainfluenza and sometimes leptospirosis. To learn more about these diseases, read on:
What is Canine Distemper?
Canine distemper is a highly contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and, often, the nervous systems of puppies and dogs. The virus also infects wild canids (e.g. foxes, wolves, coyotes), raccoons, skunks, and ferrets.
How is Canine Distemper virus spread?
Puppies and dogs usually become infected through airborne exposure to the virus contained in respiratory secretions of an infected dog or wild animal. Outbreaks of distemper tend to be sporadic. Because canine distemper also affects wildlife populations, contact between wild canids and domestic dogs may facilitate spread of the virus.
What dogs are at risk?
All dogs are at risk but puppies younger than four months old and dogs that have not been vaccinated against canine distemper are at increased risk of acquiring the disease.
What are some signs of Canine Distemper?
The first sign of distemper is eye discharge that may appear watery to pus-like. Subsequently, dogs develop fever, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, reduced appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. In later stages, the virus may attack the nervous system, bringing about seizures, twitching, or partial or complete paralysis. Occasionally, the virus may cause footpads to harden. Distemper is often fatal. Even if a dog does not die from the disease, canine distemper virus can cause irreparable damage to a dog's nervous system. Distemper is so serious and the signs so varied that any sick dog should be taken to a veterinarian for an examination and diagnosis.
How is Canine Distemper diagnosed and treated?
Veterinarians diagnose canine distemper on the basis of clinical appearance and laboratory tests. No specific drug is available that will kill the virus in infected dogs. Treatment consists primarily of efforts to prevent secondary infections; control vomiting, diarrhea, or neurologic symptoms; and combat dehydration through administration of fluids. Ill dogs should be kept warm, receive good nursing care, and be separated from other dogs.
How is Canine Distemper prevented?
Vaccination and avoiding contact with infected animals are key elements of canine distemper prevention. Vaccination is important. Young puppies are very susceptible to infection, particularly because the natural immunity provided in their mothers' milk may wear off before the puppies' own immune systems are mature enough to fight off infection. If a puppy is exposed to canine distemper virus during this gap in protection, it may become ill. An additional concern is that immunity provided by a mother's milk may interfere with an effective response to vaccination. This means even vaccinated puppies may occasionally succumb to distemper. To narrow gaps in protection and optimally defend against canine distemper during the first few months of life, a series of vaccinations is administered. Until a puppy has received its complete series of vaccinations, pet owners should use caution when taking their pet to places where young puppies congregate (e.g. pet shops, parks, puppy classes, obedience classes, doggy daycare, and grooming establishments). Reputable establishments and training programs reduce exposure risk by requiring vaccinations, health examinations, good hygiene, and isolation of ill puppies and dogs. To protect their adult dogs, pet owners should be sure that their dog's distemper vaccination is up-to-date. Ask your veterinarian about a recommended vaccination program for your canine companion. Contact with known infected dogs should always be avoided. Similarly, contact with raccoons, foxes, skunks, and other potentially infected wildlife should be discouraged.
Excerpted from the WSAVA Publication "Vaccination Guidelines for the Owners and the Breeders of Dogs and Cats," 2010
What is Canine Adenovirus Type 2?
Canine adenovirus type 2 (CAV-2) usually causes a mild to moderate infection of the respiratory tract although severe pneumonia and even death has been observed in untreated dogs. The virus is one of the causes of kennel cough or canine respiratory disease complex (CRDC). This complex may also involve infection with canine parainfluenza 2, Bordetella bronchiseptica and other bacteria (e.g. Streptococcus and Mycoplasma species). Additionally, other environmental factors such as ventilation, humidity, dust, poor hygiene and particularly stress are important in development of this complex disease.
Vaccination for canine adenovirus type 2 (CAV-2) also protects against canine adenovirus type 1 (CAV-1) the cause of canine infectious hepatitis.
From the AVMA brochure, revised December 2009
What is canine parvovirus?
Canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2) is a highly contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the gastrointestinal tract of puppies, dogs, and wild canids (e.g. foxes, wolves, coyotes). It was first identified in 1978 and is seen worldwide. It also can damage the heart muscle in very young and unborn puppies. There are several variants of CPV-2 (CPV-2a, CPV-2b, CPV-2c) based on analysis of the genetics of the virus, but they produce similar signs in animals. CPV-2b is the most common variant in the US. CPV-2c was first confirmed in the U.S. in 2006, and is becoming the second most common variant.
How is parvovirus spread?
CPV-2 is highly contagious and is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated feces (stool), environments or people. The virus can also contaminate kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes, and the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs. It is resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and drying, and can survive in the environment for long periods of time. Even trace amounts of feces containing parvovirus may serve as environmental reservoirs of the virus and infect other dogs that come into the infected environment. CPV-2 is readily transmitted from place to place on the hair or feet of dogs or via contaminated cages, shoes, or other objects.
What dogs are at risk?
All dogs are at risk, but puppies less than four months old and dogs that have not been vaccinated against canine parvovirus are at increased risk of becoming infected and ill.
What are some signs of parvovirus infection?
Dogs infected with the CPV-2 virus that are ill are often said to have "parvo." CPV-2 infection causes lethargy; loss of appetite; fever; vomiting; and severe, often bloody, diarrhea. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause rapid dehydration, and most deaths from parvovirus occur within 48 to 72 hours following the onset of clinical signs. If your puppy or dog shows any of these signs, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.
How is canine parvovirus diagnosed and treated?
CPV-2 infection is often suspected based on the dog's history, physical examination, and laboratory tests. Fecal testing can confirm the diagnosis. No specific drug is available that will kill the virus in infected dogs, and treatment is intended to support the dog's body systems until the dog's immune system can fight off the viral infection. Treatment should be started immediately and consists primarily of efforts to combat dehydration by replacing electrolyte and fluid losses, controlling vomiting and diarrhea, and preventing secondary infections. Sick dogs should be kept warm and receive good nursing care. When a dog develops parvo, treatment can be very expensive, and the dog may die despite aggressive treatment. Early recognition and aggressive treatment are very important in successful outcomes. Since CPV-2 is highly contagious, isolation of infected dogs is necessary to minimize spread of infection. Proper cleaning and disinfection of contaminated kennels and other areas where infected dogs are (or have been) housed is essential to control the spread of parvovirus. The virus is not easily killed, so consult your veterinarian for specific guidance on cleaning and disinfecting agents.
How is parvovirus prevented?
Vaccination and good hygiene are critical components of canine parvovirus prevention. Vaccination is extremely important. Young puppies are very susceptible to infection, particularly because the natural immunity provided in their mothers' milk may wear off before the puppies' own immune systems are mature enough to fight off infection. If a puppy is exposed to canine parvovirus during this gap in protection, it may become ill. An additional concern is that immunity provided by a mother's milk may interfere with an effective response to vaccination. This means even vaccinated puppies may occasionally be infected by parvovirus and develop disease. To reduce gaps in protection and provide the best protection against parvovirus during the first few months of life, a series of puppy vaccinations are administered. Puppies should receive a dose of canine parvovirus vaccine between 14 and 16 weeks of age, regardless of how many doses they received earlier, to develop adequate protection. To protect their adult dogs, pet owners should be sure that their dog's parvovirus vaccination is up-to-date. Ask your veterinarian about a recommended vaccination program for your canine companion. In spite of proper vaccination, a small percentage of dogs do not develop protective immunity and remain susceptible to infection. Until a puppy has received its complete series of vaccinations, pet owners should use caution when bringing their pet to places where young puppies congregate (e.g. pet shops, parks, puppy classes, obedience classes, doggy daycare, kennels, and grooming establishments). Reputable establishments and training programs reduce exposure risk by requiring vaccinations, health examinations, good hygiene, and isolation of ill puppies and dogs. Contact with known infected dogs and their premises should always be avoided. Finally, do not let your puppy or adult dog to come into contact with the fecal waste of other dogs while walking or playing outdoors. Prompt and proper disposal of waste material is always advisable as a way to limit spread of canine parvovirus infection as well as other diseases that can infect humans and animals. Dogs with vomiting or diarrhea or other dogs which have been exposed to ill dogs should not be taken to kennels, show grounds, dog parks, or other areas where they will come into contact with other dogs. Similarly, unvaccinated dogs should not be exposed to ill dogs or those with unknown vaccination histories. People who are in contact with sick or exposed dogs should avoid handling of other dogs or at least wash their hands and change their clothes before doing so.