Tuesday, September 15, 2009 2:13 PM

Dogs, Canine Distemper and Vaccination

Canine distemper is a disease for which veterinarians have been vaccinating dogs for decades.  It is not related at all to feline distemper (actually, panleukopenia) which, as we've seen, is more closely related to parvovirus (or, at least, was at one time).  Distemper in dogs is caused by a morbillivirus, which is more closely related to measles than anything else.

Mainly an upper respiratory disease, most dogs will be exposed to the distemper virus at some point in their lives.  Even unvaccinated, though, few dogs will actually become ill; this could be a result of natural immunity from repeated exposure.  Dogs that do develop symptoms will present with fever and lethargy, which seems to resolve itself within a week.  The fever relapses, however, with nasal discharge, eye inflammation, coughing, anorexia (no appetite) diarrhea and lethargy.  In severe cases, the dog's foot pads become thick and hard, hence the moniker, "hardpad disease".

Due to its close relation to the measles virus, some countries use that vaccine to inoculate against both distemper and measles.  In the U.S., a modified-live vaccine replaced the less efficient killed version decades ago.  The  vaccine has good efficacy, but has been known to induce disease, particularly in young pups.  Interestingly, there have been reports of dogs exhibiting behavioral changes after inoculation, similar to the autistic changes noted in some children after a measles shot.  Again, it is best to not bundle this vaccine in with others but to give separately to avoid vaccine-induced reactions.

So Cute:  The other day, a mama deer and her two fawns were grazing in our front yard.  I grabbed the camera, but, unfortunately, they must have sensed something was up, as they took off, little white tails waving.  That would have been a great pic!
Chat later!

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Amanda
Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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