Canine and Feline Distemper Vaccine: Benefits and More

By Clearvoice / July 27, 2018

What is Distemper Vaccine? Parainfluenza virus?

Canine distemper and feline distemper are different. However, any pets that do get this virus can become seriously unwell. Distemper is an infectious and contagious viral disease. Sadly, although it is treatable, it is not curable and there is not a good survival rate. The distemper vaccine will prevent your dog or cat from getting this devastating virus.

The distemper vaccine is one of the core vaccinations for your pets. A live vaccine is used. A live vaccine is one that uses a very weakened form of the virus. When this is introduced to your pet, they develop an immune response to the virus. This helps their body to fight off the actual virus should they be exposed to it.

The distemper vaccine is usually given as a combination vaccine. A shot that gives protection against other infectious diseases at the same time. In dogs, a canine dog distemper (CDV) vaccination may also include protection against the parainfluenza virus, a respiratory disease.

Combination vaccinations may also include protection against canine adenovirus, canine parvovirus, rabies and Lyme disease. Cats are also often vaccinated against feline leukemia at the same time.

The type of vaccine your veterinarian uses will depend on your pet’s age and risks of other diseases. Your pet’s health record or booklet will show the abbreviations of the vaccination given.

The letters represent each of the different diseases the vaccine used covers. For example, for a cat vaccination the letters FVRCP may be used. This abbreviation means the vaccine protects against feline viral rhinotracheitis or herpes (FVR), calicivirus (C) and panleukopenia feline distemper (P).kitten with fever as a symptoms of feline distemper vaccine

Protect the Kitties! Distemper in Cats

Feline distemper in cats is called feline panleukopenia virus (FPV). It is contagious and spreads by direct contact with an infected cat and/or their urine, feces, and blood. It also stays in the external environment for up to a year, so bedding can become contaminated.

Unborn kittens can contract the virus in the womb. Kittens are very susceptible to feline panleukopenia virus in their first few months.  The virus attacks cats’ immune systems, bone marrow, and intestines.

FPV symptoms and signs of infection may include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Rough fur
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Dehydration

Feline distemper infection can affect cats quickly, and result in death. Kittens infected before they are born, if they survive, can develop brain and nerve damage.

Protect the Puppies! Distemper in Dogs

Canine distemper or canine distemper virus (CDV) is very contagious. This strain of the virus is similar to that in ferrets, foxes, raccoons, coyotes and other wild animals. Puppies are especially susceptible.

The canine distemper virus attacks dogs’ respiratory, neurological and gastrointestinal systems. Dog distemper spreads through body fluids such as saliva, urine, blood, and feces. It can also carry through on hands and feet, utensils and bedding.

Symptoms and signs of infection in dogs can include:

  • Fever
  • A runny nose
  • Redness around eyes
  • Discharge from eyes
  • Coughing (similar to a kennel cough or infectious tracheobronchitis)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Thick or hard pads on paws
  • Muscle tremors
  • Lethargy.

Canine distemper infections can result in neurological problems, seizures, paralysis, and death.

4 Tips You Need To Know About Canine and Feline Distemper Vaccine

  1. The distemper vaccine is a core vaccine for cats and dogs and usually given as a combination vaccine. This means the vaccination will include protection against other types of diseases. These may include canine parvovirus, canine adenovirus, feline leukemia and feline viral rhinotracheitis.
  2. The vaccine is usually first administered to puppies and kittens when they are young. They then receive a series of booster vaccinations until they are a few months old. When they are adults, they have regular boosters to keep their immune response up.
  3. An unvaccinated pet exposed to the distemper virus should be vaccinated immediately. The vaccine can still be effective up to three days after exposure.
  4. Adverse reactions to the vaccination are not common. If your pet does have any reaction they are likely to be mild and outweigh the risks of contracting the disease.

a distemper shot for distemper in dogs and cats

What Your Dog and Cat Could Experience! The Side Effects

Your veterinarian will likely ask you to watch your pet for any side effects. Side effects in dogs and cats from this vaccination are not common. Sometimes though, there may be a reaction to the antibodies in the live vaccine. Don’t be put off by stories about effects such as vaccine-associated sarcoma. A vaccine-associated sarcoma is when a tumor forms around the injection site. Adverse reactions may include:

  • Swelling and redness around the injection site
  • Sleepiness and lethargy
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Neurological signs such as imbalance
  • Allergic reactions affecting breathing and skin
  • Sneezing and nasal discharge. (If your cat has the feline distemper vaccination via a nasal spray).

6 Facts About Distemper: Cats, Dogs, and All Your Pets

  1. Although there are different forms of distemper between species, it is highly contagious. Other animals that can get strains of distemper include cats, dogs, ferrets, foxes, raccoons, and skunks.
  2. Humans cannot get distemper, just your pets.
  3. The virus infects the environment as well. It has become resistant to many types of bleaches and cleaning products. It has been found to remain on utensils and bedding, even after cleaning, for long periods of time.
  4. Symptoms of distemper are similar to other diseases. A vet will check clinical signs and use tests determine a diagnosis.
  5. Treatment for distemper is not always effective. It is an aggressive virus that can result in permanent disabilities and death.
  6. The vaccination is effective in preventing pets from contracting the illness. It is usually combined with vaccinations against other infectious diseases.

vet administering canine distemper shot

The Distemper Shot: Once a Year, Once Every Few Years?

Your veterinarian will advise you on the vaccination schedule appropriate for your pet. Usually, pets have vaccinations against distemper until they are one year old. Then it is every three years after that.

 Dog and Cat Distemper Vaccine Schedule

  • Cats: The initial dose is usually two vaccinations for kittens between the ages of 6-16 weeks, three-four weeks apart. Then another at a year old, then one or three-year intervals as adults.
  • Dogs: The initial dose is usually three vaccinations for puppies tens between the ages of 6-16 weeks, three-four weeks apart. Then another at a year old, then one or three-year intervals as adult dogs.

Low-cost for Pet Owners! Distemper Vaccine Cost

The cost of the distemper vaccination is in the range of $20 to $30 per vaccination. So that’s a total cost of around $100 for the first year. This is in addition to any consultation or examination fees a veterinarian or clinic may charge.kitten and puppy vaccination schedule on a calendar

A Viral Bug That Can Hurt Your Pet! Don’t Wait! Vaccinate…

The canine distemper vaccine and feline distemper vaccine is a core vaccine needed for dogs and cats. If you have a pet ferret, they can also contract the disease.

Cats and dogs not vaccinated while they are young can still be vaccinated as adults. You should ensure your puppy or kitten has the best start at life by making sure they get these shots. And remember, keep up with their boosters as they age!

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