Vaccines are used to prevent diseases in humans as well as companion animals. Core vaccines are recommended for all puppies and dogs with unknown vaccine history. The canine core vaccines include rabies, distemper virus, adenovirus-2, and parvovirus. These diseases are widely distributed, and have significant mortality rates in the animals affected. The vaccine DA2PP, commonly referred to as Distemper-Parvo vaccine, covers 3 out of 4 of these core vaccines. (1)
D- Canine Distemper Virus
So what is Canine Distemper Virus really? It is “a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies and dogs.”(2) Domesticated dogs aren’t the only specie able to get this disease. It can also be found in a variety of wildlife; including wolves, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and skunks. The disease is often spread via airborne exposure (like with a sneeze or cough), or through shared food and water bowls. Infected mother dogs can pass it through the placenta to the puppies. All unvaccinated dogs are at risk of contracting this disease, but particularly puppies under the age of four months old.
Symptoms of canine distemper start with discharge from the eyes. Fever, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, reduced appetite, and vomiting occur as symptoms of the attacks on the respiratory and gastrointestinal track. Symptoms of the nervous system include: circling behavior, head tilt, muscle twitches, convulsions with jaw chewing movements, and salivation, seizures, and partial to complete paralysis(2). This disease also has the nickname “hard pad disease” for it can also cause thickening and hardening of the foot pads.
Our second disease is: Canine Adenovirus Type 2. It’s related to Canine Adenovirus Type 1, a hepatitis virus, and used to vaccinate against both disease. It can also be a cause of canine cough. Adenoviruses can be spread dog to dog via infected respiratory secretions, or through contaminated feces or urine(3). Adenovirus Type 2 is used in vaccines as it also prevents against Adenovirus Type 1(4). Symptoms of Type 2 include: a dry, hacking cough, retching, coughing up white foamy discharge, and conjunctivitis(3) (an inflammation of the inner eyelids and the tissues around the eye(4)).
Part two of this series will cover Parainfluenza and Parvovirus.
By Beth Chapman, Veterinary Assistant at Pinole Pet Hospital.