This month I’ve focused on another preventable disease that is included in routine vaccines recommended by your veterinarian. Distemper is a viral disease that is more common in young, unvaccinated dogs but may also affect older dogs as well.

Dogs affected with generalized distemper experience respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, pneumonia), followed by gastrointestinal signs (vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration). These symptoms may be followed by neurological abnormalities (seizures, incoordination).

Older dogs infected with the virus may present with a syndrome termed “Old-dog encephalitis” consisting of incoordination and compulsive movements such as pacing and head-pressing.

Distemper is a very contagious disease with typically severe symptoms. Treatment is focused on supportive care of fluid therapy for dehydration, antibiotics to battle secondary infections, medications to control seizures, and nutritional support. There is no medication known to eradicate the virus. Full recovery in young dogs is uncommon.

Fortunately, the vaccine for distemper, when given as directed by a veterinarian, is very effective in preventing disease. This vaccine, usually in combination with others, including parvovirus and adenovirus, is given to puppies at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. Adjustments to the vaccine schedule may be made by your veterinarian depending on the age of your puppy, risks of exposure, and previous vaccine history. This vaccine is then repeated every 1-3 years for life.

To make sure your pet is protected from preventable disease, give Valley Verde Veterinarians a call at 520-393-7387.