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ABC's of Dog Vaccines

Dog injectable vaccine found in the combination products may have the letters D, A2, H, P, PV, Pv, CPV, CV, CVK, L, and L4.


"D" stands for Distemper. Distemper is a contagious viral disease that can result in death. It affects the gastrointestinal tract and respiratory system. If the dog survives the initial infection, the illness often spreads to the nervous system, causing seizures and chronic problems. Clients often elect euthanasia due to seizures. There is no specific treatment except supportive care, and over half the infected dogs die. Vaccination is highly effective at protecting dogs against Distemper virus.


"H" and "A2" stand for hepatitis and canine adenovirus type 2. This illness is caused by a virus, canine adenovirus type 1 and 2. The disease is infectious canine hepatitis (Adeno virus type 1) or coughing (Adeno virus type 2). Adenovirus type 2 is used to make vaccine, and protects against both adenovirus type 1 and 2 infections. Vaccination is highly effective at protecting dogs against Adenovirus.


"P" typically stands for Para influenza. Para influenza is a virus that causes respiratory infections in dogs. It is also one of the culprits involved in infectious canine bronchitis, commonly called ?kennel cough'. Vaccination with par influenza vaccine is important to protect dogs from respiratory disease. All dogs should receive Para influenza vaccine as part of their vaccination regime.


"PV", "Pv", "CPV", and sometimes "P" stand for canine parvovirus. This highly contagious viral disease is a well-known cause of gastrointestinal disease and death in many dogs. Because there is no specific cure, treatment is primarily intensive in-hospital nursing and supportive care. Vaccination is highly effective at preventing Parvo virus.


"CV" and "CVK" stand for coronavirus. This contagious viral disease causes intestinal illness and can be mild in older dogs or severe in young dogs. It has been associated with death in young puppies. As with the other viral diseases, there is no specific therapy to eliminate the virus. Animals are treated with supportive and nursing care. Mothers vaccinated for corona will protect their puppies in the milk until after weaning. It is often included in the vaccinations given to young dogs (10 weeks), and breeding females.


"L" or "4L" stand for leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can cause liver and kidney disease as well as abortion. The illness may be acute, chronic, and in apparent or cause death. The bacteria exist in many different subtypes, called serovars. Most available vaccines protect against two of these serovars, L.canicola and L. icterohaemorrhagiae. A few vaccines protect against two additional serovars, L.grippotyphosa and L.pomona. Read the vaccine label carefully to identify which serovars are present in the vaccine. Lepto vaccination is important, but dogs only need the serovars in your area. Not all dogs should receive this vaccine. Discuss the use of leptospirosis vaccine with your veterinarian.


Vaccination Reaction

It is true that some animals have a systemic reaction,

including a low-grade fever or muscle aches and pain.

This reaction is more common in young and toy breed dogs

and causes them to eat less and sleep more for 24-48 hours.

Rarely, dogs will have a more severe reaction, characterized by hives,

swelling of the face, or even vomiting.

This reaction is easily prevented.

I recommend giving 1/2 cc liquid Benadryl 1 hr. before giving the shots.


In some rare cases dogs will have a more severe reaction leading to death.

Leptospirosis, the component most likely to produce such strong reactions,

can be left out of some vaccines.

If your dog has had a vaccine reaction in the past,

don't skip future vaccinations but do warn the veterinarian so he can take

steps to prevent a recurrence.

Panacur® Dewormer removes hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and more. Dogs: Use Panacur for the removal of ascarids (Toxocara canis, Toxascaris leonina), hookworms (Anclyostoma caninum, Uncinaria stenocephaia), whipworms (Trichuris vulpis) and tapeworms (Taenia pisiformis).

I use Panacur liquid, it works just as well. It is gentle on the
puppies tummy. I also use this on my adluts.


Many puppies are acquired by their new owners at six weeks, which is the usual weaning age. Up until this time, the pups should have been dewormed every two weeks, starting at two weeks of age. At six weeks of age the pups start their well-puppy examination/vaccinations series. This series is an ideal time to establish a relationship with your pet’s veterinarian. Owner, puppy, and veterinarian should get to know each other.

The well-puppy series is a schedule of examinations and vaccinations that is performed at approximately six, nine, twelve, and sixteen weeks of age. Even though most puppies remain healthy throughout their well-puppy series, it is recommended that a physical examination be very subtle initially. Also a fecal examination should be performed each time to check for worms and other intestinal parasites.

The basic well puppy procedure is as follows: A physical examination and fecal check are performed at each visit. A standard distemper, parvo, hepatitis, etc. combination vaccine is administered at each scheduled date. Rabies vaccination is given at twelve or sixteen weeks of age. Additional vaccines such as Lyme, bordetella (kennel cough), etc. are given based on the possible exposure of these diseases to your dog. Check with your veterinarian on these additional vaccinations. More frequent or earlier age vaccination is not recommended. Heartworm prevention is started at eight to nine weeks of age and maintained throughout the dog’s life. Deworming is performed regularly until heartworm prevention is started, as most approved heartworm preventatives today also treat for some of the most common intestinal worms.

Diet and dental health are important in your dog’s overall health. Puppies should be fed a premium brand puppy food in measured amounts until they are one to two years old. They are then switched to a premium adult dog food. Measured amounts of food help prevent obesity and other health problems. Good quality dog food helps maintain healthy teeth, but regular teeth brushing and preventative dental cleanings are most important for good dental health. Most pups can be easily trained to accept daily teeth brushing. Use toothpaste developed for your pet and not human toothpaste which may cause stomach upset if swallowed.

Once a puppy has completed its puppy health series, regular checkups and vaccinations are recommended to help maintain your dog’s health. Physical examination, fecal exam, heartworm test, and dental exam are recommended yearly. Dental cleaning by your veterinarian is performed as needed. Booster vaccination’s traditionally have been given yearly based on initial vaccine manufacturer recommendations. However, vaccination protocols are evolving as new research is being done on length of vaccination protection. Last, but not least, spay or neuter.

Dog Vaccination FAQ's

Find the answers to your questions about dog vaccines and vaccination.

Is vaccination actually necessary?

Yes. Vaccination can help prevent your dog from contracting potentially fatal diseases. Vaccines contain modified or killed versions of common canine diseases. When they are injected into the body, your dog's immune system will attack them. If your dog is later exposed to the disease again, the immune system will remember the disease and quickly counteract it.

Should I vaccinate for everything?

Not necessarily. There are two classes for canine vaccines: Core and Non-Core.

Core vaccines are recommended for all dogs, regardless of breed, size or location. All dogs will see these life-threatening diseases in their lifetime. If it didn't kill them and they were lucky enough to recover, they would still suffer the side effects for the rest of their lives. The core vaccines include distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus and rabies (required by law).

Non-core vaccines are reserved for pets with unique exposure risks or needs. These include leptospirosis, kennel cough, corona virus, giardia and Lyme disease. If any of these diseases are prominent in your area, you may want to consider vaccinating for them. If your dog will visit the groomer's or kennel often, the kennel cough (bordetella bronchiseptica) vaccine may be recommended as well.

Standard 5-way vaccines offer protection against the "Core" canine diseases. Other 6-, 7- and 8-way combinations add "Non-Core" disease protection against corona or lepto. Kennel cough vaccines may include the parainfluenza virus as well. The non-core options should be added if your dog's lifestyle or area of the country exposes it to these diseases. Talk to your veterinarian for more specific recommendations for your dog.

Is there a risk in giving vaccines?

As with human vaccination, there are always risks. However, the benefits of a healthy life certainly outweigh the risks of contracting a life-threatening disease. Your dog may have mild tiredness, fever, soreness or reduced appetite, but these will go away in a day or two. If they persist longer, you should talk with your veterinarian. Rare cases have reported allergic reactions and sometimes death, but the chances of this happening are very low.

If your dog has had reactions to vaccinations before, it's best to let your veterinarian give the vaccines. Let them know of the reactions, so they can make the proper adjustments and preparations.

What's the difference between MLV vaccines and Killed vaccines?

An MLV (Modified Live Vaccine) is a live but weakened version of a virus that is used to stimulate immune response. A Killed vaccine is an inactive form of the virus, with all infectious bacteria taken out and killed.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. MLV vaccines are more effective in preparing the immune system, they last longer and they're also faster, achieving immunity in one dose. Killed vaccines pose no risk of infecting the animal, but are less effective in providing immunity and usually require two doses.

Why do puppies need a series of vaccinations?

Puppies receive antibodies from their mother's milk, giving temporary protection against disease. These antibodies also see vaccines as a disease and can eliminate them before they stimulate the immune system. There is a time after weaning called "window of susceptibility," where the antibodies wear off and the puppy is at risk for disease. However, it's almost impossible to determine this time period for each individual puppy. By giving a series of vaccinations, you boost your puppy's protection as soon as the mother's antibodies wear off, whenever this happens.

Can I give vaccines to pregnant or nursing dogs?

In general, treatments of any kind are not recommended for pregnant or nursing animals unless the manufacturer has tested and proven them to be safe. The same is true with vaccines. If you have questions, check with your veterinarian first.

Keep in mind that vaccinating a nursing animal will not pass the protection on to the babies. Newborns only receive the antibodies from the colostrum in the first 36 hours of nursing, and the vaccine will take a week or more to fully affect the immune system. If the mother needs vaccination, it's best to wait until after weaning, when the stress of pregnancy and nursing is removed. She will be better equipped to respond after she's had adequate time to recover.

Are yearly booster shots really necessary?

Up until a few years ago, this was the standard recommendation. However, recent studies show increasing evidence that some vaccines last much longer than a year. Talk to your veterinarian for recommendation. One vaccine schedule is not universal for all pets, so your vet will have the best insight into what kinds of vaccines your dog should receive and when they should receive them.



The Irreverent Vet Speaks out on "What Vaccines Does Your Dog Really Need?"

By: Irreverent Vet


Irreverent Vet

What vaccines does your dog really need?

This is a question commonly asked by dog lovers everywhere. Dog lovers want to do the right thing, protect their dog but at the same time minimize risk of problems to their dog and avoid unnecessary expenses.

In this article, I'd like to address this question. I'm the Irreverent Veterinarian. I give you my opinion and speak the truth regardless of if pet owners or other veterinarians like it or not.

The question that I'll address today is...What Vaccines to Dogs Really Need?

Are Vaccines Safe?

Vaccines have a low rate of reactions but there are problems. Some of the problems can be life-threatening. For more information on this topic - please read this article:
The Irreverent Vet Speaks out on "Are Dog Vaccines Safe?" Because there are issues with vaccine safety, it is ideal to give only what a dog really needs.

What Vaccines do Dogs Really Need?

This is the answer. It depends upon the age and risk factors of a dog. I'll tell you what I think and even tell you how I vaccinate my own dogs.

Puppies should receive a full series of vaccines beginning at 6 to 8 weeks of age and repeated every 3 to 4 weeks until they are 16 to 20 weeks of age to protect them against all the common diseases.

Unvaccinated adult dogs should also receive two full sets of vaccines spaced 3 to 4 weeks apart.

Adult dogs should received vaccines as required by law (rabies) and other vaccines at least every 3 years.

Vaccine Recommendations

~  Puppies  ~ Puppies should receive immunity against some diseases through their mother's milk but this disappears during the first few months of their life. To protect puppies during this critical time, a well-researched approach is taken: A series of vaccines is given every 3 to 4 weeks until the chance of contracting an infectious disease is very low. The typical vaccine is a "combination" that protects against canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus, parainfluenza, and canine parvovirus (the four viruses are commonly abbreviated DHPP).

Many veterinarians also recommend incorporating leptospirosis in the vaccination series (this combination is abbreviated DHLPP). Rabies vaccines are given between 16 and 26 weeks of age in most states (governed by law).

~ Dogs between 20 weeks and 2 years of age

It is typical to booster the puppy shots in young adult dogs to ensure adequate lifelong immunity against deadly viral diseases. Your veterinarian will likely "booster" your dog to protect against canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus, parainfluenza, and canine parvovirus (the four viruses are commonly abbreviated DHPP). Many veterinarians also recommend incorporating leptospirosis in the vaccination series (the 5 components are abbreviated DHLPP).

Many dogs are also immunized against bacterial infections (e.g. bordetella and leptospirosis). The immunization for these diseases typically do not persist for more than a year making yearly (and occasionally more frequent) booster vaccines advisable.

The bordetella protects against "kennel cough" and is often a requirement of boarding facilities. Bordetella is also recommended for dogs that attend dog parks, conformation shows or agility competitions.

There is currently a vaccination available for canine influenza virus. The vaccine is recommended for dogs "at risk". Dogs that frequently interact with other dogs, participate in activities with other dogs or are boarded are considered at risk and can benefit from vaccination.

The rabies vaccines should be given as recommended by local law. Newer vaccines effective against specific forms of the bacteria leptospirosis may be important in some areas.

~ Adult dogs (over 2 years of age)

Annual revaccination (boosters) is recommended for the first year after the "puppy vaccines"; thereafter, you should discuss the benefits and risks of annual vaccination with your vet.

In the past, the DHLP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus) vaccine was typically given each year. These recommendations are changing. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) came out with new guidelines in 2006 that suggests that adult dog vaccines boosters may be adequate if given every 3 years. Specific vaccine requirements for individual dogs should be discussed with your veterinarian.

The most appropriate vaccination program for your pet should be followed.

Again, if the risk of kennel cough or canine influenza virus is great, a vaccine against bordetella and canine flu is recommended. Both vaccines need to be given twice initially then each year. You and your veterinarian should assess whether it is required.

The rabies vaccine should be given as recommended by local law. Newer vaccines effective against specific forms of the bacteria leptospirosis may be important in some areas. The need for the vaccine should be determined based on the area of the country your dog lives in and his or her life-style. If given, they should be administered once to twice a year.

Other vaccinations that are sometimes given by your veterinarian include coronavirus, Lyme and giardia. These are not routinely given to every animal, and their use should be discussed with your veterinarian. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) came out with new guidelines in 2006 that suggests that coronavirus and giardia vaccines are not recommended for dogs at any age. The Borreliosis/Lyme disease vaccine is recommended for dogs that live in an endemic area where risk of exposure to the tick vector is high or dogs that travel to endemic areas.

Another option to determine what vaccines your dog needs is to do vaccine titers.

If your adult dog has an adverse reaction to the vaccine (fever, vomiting, shaking, facial swelling or hives) discuss the risk of annual revaccination with your veterinarian.

Vaccine Titers

Should You do Vaccine Titers?

A vaccine titer is a blood test that determines the presence of antibodies that develop in response to the vaccine. Since varying amounts of antibodies can be detected in different animals, titers are expressed in terms of ratios. Adequate levels of vaccine titers indicate that the pet does not need a booster vaccination at that time. Low titers indicate that vaccination will be necessary to provide immune protection. This is a method to determine if a dog needs vaccines.

Historically, the cost of doing this test is far greater than giving the vaccine and therefore most veterinarians and pet owners did not do them. However, with the increased risk of vaccine complications, this is a reasonable option.

How I Vaccinate My Dogs?

This is what I do. I understand the needs, benefits, and risks of vaccines.

~ For puppies ~ I give them a full vaccine series as described above and booster vaccines when they are one year of age. They are vaccinated for rabies as required by law (yearly or every 3 years depending on the state/county law). I do the minimum required by law.

 ~ For unvaccinated adult dogs ~ they receive two sets of vaccines 3 to 4 weeks apart including bordetella and the canine flu vaccine. They are vaccinated for rabies as required by law depending on the county/state law.

~ Adult dogs~ that were full immunized as puppies or young adults. Adult dogs receive vaccine booster every 3 years. They have yearly examinations and after they age of 7 -they have yearly blood work as well (which has nothing to do with vaccination - but is a way for me to evaluate their overall health). They are vaccinated for rabies as required by law (yearly or every 3 years depending on the state/county law). I do the minimum required by law.

~Senior dogs in good health~ (large breeds over the age of 7 or small breeds over the age of 10) - receive vaccine booster every 3 years, yearly exams and yearly blood work. They are vaccinated for rabies as required by law (yearly or every 3 years depending on the state/county law). I do the minimum required by law.

~Senior dogs with illnesses and on medications ~ For my senior dogs that are in poor health or on medications - to be honest - I don't vaccinate them except for Rabies (as required by law). They do receive exams and blood work twice a year (at least or more if needed depending on these health). I asked 5 other veterinarians with dogs - how they deal with their own dogs and they do essentially the same as outlined here

My Final Thoughts - What Vaccines Do Dogs Really Need?

You should discuss all vaccination programs with your veterinarian. Follow their recommendations based on your dogs risk. If you are not sure what your dog needs, consider vaccine titers. There is no real disadvantage of doing the titers other than the expense of doing them.

What are your thoughts?
Email me


The Irreverent Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can't say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, the opportunity to consider another view. All opinions are those of the Politically Incorrect Vet and not the views of and are not endorsed by

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How to Recognize and Treat Coronavirus in Dogs

By Nicki Howell, eHow Contributor Coroavirus is a condition that affects the intestinal lining, which can cause dogs to become sick. A dog may become infected by this virus while consuming feces or licking another dog. The canines most susceptible to this condition are puppies that haven't gotten all of their vaccines. Here's how to recognize and treat coronavirus in dogs.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging


1)  Evaluate your dog for signs of coronavirus. Symptoms of this condition may include vomiting and diarrhea. You may also notice that your canine has lost interest in food.

 2) Take your dog to the vet for an exam. Because this condition can be a serious health issue for your pet, seeking early medical attention is recommended. Your vet will run tests to make a proper diagnosis of your dog's condition.

3) Partner with the vet to create a treatment plan for the dog. This may include administering intravenous fluids and antibiotics. You may also need to switch your pet to a bland diet until she is feeling better.

4) Create a soothing place for your dog to heal. Wash his bedding and provide a few favorite toys. Move his bed to a quiet area of the house that is free from stress and distractions. Encourage him to rest until he is feeling better.

5) Have other dogs in the household examined, as coronavirus is highly contagious. The animals should all be treated at the same time to prevent a recurrence of the condition.

Tips & Warnings

?Limit exercise until your dog has recovered. Keep his activity to a minimum. (Keeping your dog on a leash can reduce excess roaming.)

?Don't stop administering medication early; even if your dog appears to be feeling better, make sure he finishes his course of antibiotics. Failure to do so could put him at risk for more serious health issues.


Infectious Canine Hepatitis: Introduction 


Infectious canine hepatitis (ICH) is a worldwide, contagious disease of dogs with signs that vary from a slight fever and congestion of the mucous membranes to severe depression, marked leukopenia, and prolonged bleeding time. It also is seen in foxes, wolves, coyotes, and bears; other carnivores may become infected without developing clinical illness. In recent years, the disease has become uncommon in areas where routine immunization is used. 

Etiology and Pathogenesis:

ICH is caused by a nonenveloped DNA virus, canine adenovirus 1 (CAV-1), which is antigenically related only to CAV-2 (one of the causes of infectious canine tracheobronchitis, Infectious Tracheobronchitis of Dogs). CAV-1 is resistant to lipid solvents and survives outside the host for weeks or months, but a 1-3% solution of sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) is an effective disinfectant. 

Ingestion of urine, feces, or saliva of infected dogs is the main route of infection. Recovered dogs shed virus in their urine for ¡İ6 mo. Initial infection occurs in the tonsillar crypts and Peyer¡¯s patches, followed by viremia and infection of endothelial cells in many tissues. Liver, kidneys, spleen, and lungs are the main target organs. Chronic kidney lesions and corneal clouding (¡°blue eye¡±) result from immune-complex reactions after recovery from acute or subclinical disease.  

Clinical Findings:

Signs vary from a slight fever to death. The mortality rate is highest in very young dogs. The incubation period is 4-9 days. The first sign is a fever of >104¡ãF (40¡ãC), which lasts 1-6 days and is usually biphasic. If the fever is of short duration, leukopenia may be the only other sign, but if it persists for >1 day, acute illness develops. Tachycardia out of proportion to the fever may occur. On the day after the initial temperature rise, leukopenia develops and persists throughout the febrile period. The degree of leukopenia varies and seems to be correlated with the severity of illness.

Signs are apathy, anorexia, thirst, conjunctivitis, serous discharge from the eyes and nose, and occasionally abdominal pain and vomiting. Intense hyperemia or petechiae of the oral mucosa, as well as enlarged tonsils, may be seen. There may be subcutaneous edema of the head, neck, and trunk. 

Clotting time is directly correlated with the severity of illness. It may be difficult to control hemorrhage, which is manifest by bleeding around deciduous teeth and by spontaneous hematomas, because of underlying disseminated intravascular coagulation. Respiratory signs usually are not seen in dogs with ICH; however, CAV-1 has been recovered from dogs with signs of infectious tracheobronchitis and from dogs with respiratory signs induced by exposure to the nebulated virus. Although CNS involvement is unusual, severely infected dogs may develop convulsions from forebrain damage; brain stem hemorrhages, resulting in paresis, are common. Foxes more consistently have CNS signs and intermittent convulsions during the course of illness, and paralysis may involve one or more limbs or the entire body.  On recovery, dogs eat well but regain weight slowly. Bilateral corneal opacity develops 7-10 days after the acute signs disappear in ~25% of recovered dogs and usually disappears spontaneously. In mild cases, transient corneal opacity may be the only sign of disease.

Chronic hepatitis may develop in dogs having low levels of passive antibody when exposed. Simultaneous infection with CAV-1 and distemper virus is sometimes seen. 

Lesions: Endothelial damage results in ¡°paint brush¡± hemorrhages on the gastric serosa, lymph nodes, thymus, pancreas, and subcutaneous tissues. Hepatic cell necrosis produces a variegated color change in the liver, which may be normal in size or swollen. The gallbladder wall may be edematous and thickened; edema of the thymus may be found. Grayish white foci may be seen in the kidney cortex.   


Usually, the abrupt onset and bleeding suggest ICH. Clinical evidence is not always sufficient to differentiate ICH from distemper ( Canine Distemper: Introduction), although the gross changes in the liver and gallbladder are more conclusive. Diagnosis is confirmed by virus isolation, immunofluorescence, or characteristic intranuclear inclusion bodies in the liver. 


Blood transfusions may be necessary in severely ill dogs. In addition, 5% dextrose in isotonic saline should be given, preferably IV. In dogs with prolonged clotting time, SC administration of fluids may be dangerous. A broad-spectrum antibiotic should be given. Because tetracyclines may cause discoloration of the teeth during tooth development, they should not be used in puppies before their permanent teeth erupt. Although the transient corneal opacity (that may be seen during the course of ICH or be associated with vaccination with attenuated CAV-1 vaccines) usually requires no treatment, atropine ophthalmic ointment may alleviate the painful ciliary spasm that is sometimes associated with it. Dogs with corneal clouding should be protected against bright light. Systemic corticosteroids are generally contraindicated for treatment of corneal opacity associated with ICH.


Modified-live virus vaccines are available and are often combined with other vaccines. Vaccination against ICH is recommended at the time of canine distemper vaccinations. Attenuated CAV-1 vaccines have produced transient unilateral or bilateral opacities of the cornea, and the virus may be shed in urine. CAV-2 attenuated live virus strains, which provide cross protection against CAV-1, are preferentially used because they have very little tendency to produce corneal opacities or uveitis, and the virus is not shed in urine. Annual revaccination against ICH is often practiced. Maternal antibody from immune bitches interferes with active immunization in puppies until they are 9-12 wk old.


Kennel Cough (Infectious Tracheobronchitis) in Dogs 

Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith 

'Kennel Cough' is the term that was commonly applied to the most prevalent upper respiratory problem in dogs in the United States. Recently, the condition has become known as tracheobronchitis, canine infectious tracheobronchitis, Bordetellosis, or Bordetella. It is highly contagious in dogs. The disease is found worldwide and will infect a very high percentage of dogs in their lifetime.

Infectious agents involved

There are many different agents that can cause of tracheobronchitis. The most common are parainfluenza virus, Bordetella bronchiseptica, and mycoplasma. Canine adenovirus type 2, reovirus, and canine herpes virus are thought to possibly contribute to the disease, as well. Although any one of these organisms can cause symptoms of the disease, the majority of cases are the result of more than one organism.

The most common viral agent is parainfluenza virus. This common virus will cause mild symptoms lasting less than 6 days unless there is involvement of other bacteria, as is usually the case. Most 5-way vaccines and 'kennel cough' vaccines offer some protection against this virus.

Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most common bacteria isolated from dogs with tracheobronchitis. Clinical signs of infections occur 2-14 days after exposure, and if uncomplicated with other agents, symptoms will last around 10 days. However, after the infection has been resolved, the affected animal will continue to shed the bacteria for 6 to 14 weeks and can spread the disease to other susceptible animals during that time. Bordetella is one of the agents protected against through the use of intranasal 'kennel cough' vaccines. Parainfluenza and Bordetella most commonly appear together in infectious tracheobronchitis, creating a disease that normally lasts from 14-20 days.


The most common symptom is a dry hacking cough sometimes followed by retching. Many owners describe the cough as having a 'honking sound.' A watery nasal discharge may also be present. With mild cases, dogs continue to eat and be alert and active. Many times, there is a recent history of boarding or coming in contact with other dogs. In more severe cases, the symptoms may progress and include lethargy, fever, inappetence, pneumonia, and in very severe cases, even death. The majority of severe cases occur in immunocompromised animals, or young unvaccinated puppies.


Diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms and a history of recent exposure to other dogs. Bacterial cultures, viral isolation, and blood work can be performed to verify individual agents of the disease, but due to the characteristic nature of the symptoms, these tests are not routinely performed.


There are two treatment options depending on the severity of the disease. In the most common mild (uncomplicated) form of the disease, antibiotics may or may not be used. Treating the mild case does not shorten the length in which the animal will be a potential spreader of the disease. In addition, bronchodilators like aminophylline or cough suppressants may also be used in treatment of mild cases.

In more severe (complicated) cases where the animal is not eating, running a fever, or showing signs of pneumonia, antibiotics are often used. The most common ones are doxycycline or trimethoprim-sulfa. However, many other choices are also available. Steroids or cough suppressants are not usually recommended because of the risk of immunosuppression with steroids and the need to continue to clear extra fluid or mucous in pneumonia patients. Bronchodilators and even aerosol therapy can be used. In moderate or severe cases, veterinary care should be instituted, as the resultant pneumonia could become life threatening if not treated properly and promptly.

Because pressure on the throat and trachea can make coughing worse, it is recommended that dogs with a cough should wear a head collar or harness instead of a regular neck collar.

Vaccination and prevention

The best prevention is to not expose your dog to other dogs, especially young puppies. If this cannot be avoided, then proper vaccination is the next best option. Chances are that if your dog is regularly vaccinated with a standard 5-way or 7-way vaccine, he is already being protected against several of the agents causing tracheobronchitis, mainly parainfluenza and adenovirus. However, these vaccines alone rarely provide protection against contracting the disease, although they will help reduce the severity of the disease if the animal becomes infected.

There is an injectable Bordatella vaccine, and one that is given intranasally (squirted into the nostrils). Neither vaccine will totally prevent infection with Bordatella. For the injectable vaccine, 2 doses must be given 3-4 weeks apart, and protection does not occur until 1-2 weeks after the second injection.

Do not give an intranasal vaccine as an injection, as an abscess may occur.

More commonly, for best protection, an intranasal vaccine containing both parainfluenza and Bordetella is used. Intranasal vaccines create localized immunity that greatly reduces the incidence of clinical signs and illness. The vaccine may be used in puppies as young as 3 weeks of age, only one dose is necessary to provide protection, and protection occurs as early as 3-4 days following vaccination. There are several precautions and warnings that need to be observed pertaining to this vaccine. Some dogs will develop mild signs similar to tracheobronchitis when given this vaccine. Very often, the symptoms will last for several days and the dog will recover without treatment. Dogs that are vaccinated can also shed the virus and cause other dogs to become mildly infected and show mild signs. This shedding usually lasts less than 72 hours. In addition, it takes up to 4 days after vaccination for dogs to develop protection. When you combine these facts, you will see why it is strongly recommend that a dog not be given intranasal vaccine within 72 hours of coming into contact with other susceptible dogs. Do not give the vaccine the day before a dog show, boarding, etc. Try to give at least four days before contact with other dogs and preferably 7 days. This way you will protect your dog from becoming infected by other dogs, and protect those dogs from becoming infected by yours.

In kennels where tracheobronchitis is a problem, strict hygiene with thorough cleaning and disinfection of cages and food and water containers is essential. In addition, kennels that are indoors should have good ventilation with an air turnover rate of at least 12 times an hour. Agents causing tracheobronchitis can be transmitted on hands and clothing as well as through the air, so infected animals must be isolated and handlers should wear gloves and use proper handwashing to help prevent spread. Vaccination of all animals, especially puppies is indicated in problem kennels. After initial vaccination as puppies, a yearly booster is recommended. However, some dogs that are at very high risk are vaccinated every six months.

Human health risk

Until recently, infectious tracheobronchitis was considered to not be a human health risk. Recently however, research indicates that Bordetella bronchiseptica may cause disease in some humans, primarily those with compromised immune systems. In normal, healthy adults there does not appear to be a risk, but young children and immunocompromised individuals should take precautions against coming into contact with animals that have symptoms of tracheobronchitis.


'Kennel Cough,' now more commonly referred to as 'infectious tracheobronchitis' is a widespread disease caused by several different viruses and bacteria. It is usually a self-limiting disease and most animals do not require treatment. Intranasal vaccines are effective, but due to some possible side effects are recommended for animals that are at higher risk. Infectious tracheobronchitis is a disease of dogs and wild canids, it does not appear to be a risk to healthy humans.


Canine Distemper In Your Pet

Ron Hines DVM PhD

Lots of my articles are plagiarized and altered on the web to market products and services. There are never ads running or anything for sale with my real articles - other than my time. Try to stay with the ones that begin with in the URL box or find all my articles at ACC.htm.

What Is Canine Distemper?

Canine distemper is a multi-systemic viral disease of dogs found throughout the World. It is highly contagious. It is fatal in approximately half the cases.

How Might My Pet Catch Distemper?.

Canine distemper is usually transmitted through contact with respiratory secretions. But contact with fecal material and the urine of infected dogs or things they have contaminated can also cause infection.

Canine Distemper was far-and-away the most common fatal disease of dogs during the first half of the twentieth century. It was a daily or weekly occurrence well into the 1960s in the Mexican border town where I grew up. In the 1940s, crude vaccines first became available to attempt to control this disease. In the 1960s sophisticated, weakened live virus vaccines took their place. These vaccines have made canine distemper a very rare disease in household pets in the industrialized world. I see it now primarily in pets from poor neighborhoods.

About The Virus

The virus that produces canine distemper belongs to the paramyxovirus group. Human measles virus is also a member of this group. Distemper virus is easy to kill with disinfectants, sunlight or heat.

In the body, this virus attacks and grows within the white cells (lymphocytes and macrophages) of the blood and lymphatic system as well as the cells that line the intestinal tract. Canine distemper virus is very resistant to cold. Cold will preserve it. In many areas , more cases are seen in the fall and winter.

Canine distemper virus is passed rapidly through coughed or sneezed droplets of saliva. It then invades the lymphatic tissue. Within two to five days lymphatic tissue throughout the pet's body is infected. By the sixth to ninth day, the virus is present in the blood. It then spreads to the surfaces of the lungs, intestine and bladder and, on occasion, to the nervous system.

Who Can Catch Canine Distemper?

Young puppies, between 3 and 6 months of age, are most susceptible to the disease and are the most likely to die from it. However, non-immunized adult dogs are also highly susceptible to distemper. These older dogs often develop mild cases.

All species of dog-like animals are affected as well as weasel-like animals such as ferrets, mink skunk, badgers and raccoon and red pandas. Recently it was recognized that large cats such as lions can also develop the disease. Wild hogs called javelinas also develop distemper. It has been reported that humans can contract an asymptomatic (no signs) canine distemper infection.

Domestic cats are not susceptible to canine distemper. Distemper of cats refers to a different virus, the panleukopenia virus . In wild meat-eating animals, canine distemper can cause abnormal behavior and lack of fear that is suggestive of rabies. This is especially true in urban raccoons which commonly have canine distemper. When they do, they show signs very similar to raccoons that have rabies.

What Signs Might My Pet Show?

I see distemper most often in older puppies that are in the process of loosing their mother's protective antibody and have not yet been vaccinated.

Once these pets are infected, the virus is shed in all their body secretions. Signs that the pet is sick begins 3-6 days after infection. About the seventh day of infection, most dogs develop a fever of 103-106F (39.5-41 C) and become depressed.

During the next two weeks, the pet either develop antibodies against the disease that protect it and kills the virus or it gradually goes downhill. There is allot of variation in the duration and severity of the clinical disease between pets. That is because some of the pets are partially immune, some of them have genetic resistance and the strain of distemper they contracted could be strong or weak. Pets that go downhill develop a cough, secondary bacterial pneumonia and inflammation of the intestines. Many of these dogs have infection and damage to their brains and spinal cords that result in tremor and convulsions. Labored breathing and an un-kept appearance are common. By the third week most dogs have either died from the infection or are on the way to recovery. You can tell this by their mental attitude. If they perk up and begin wagging their tails the angels have spared them. The exceptions are the cases in which damage to the brain is delayed for up to three months. For some reason, these tend to be dogs with long noses and faces like collies and german shepherd types. These delayed cases may show no respiratory or intestinal signs before delayed nerve damage occurs. Pathologists say that in a few cases, the virus persists in the eyes, footpads and nervous system - possibly forever.

Signs vary greatly from case to case. Mortality from the disease is about fifty percent with mild cases showing very few or no disease sign. Most dogs that die from distemper die from neurological complications. The fever that begins near day seven gradually drops only to peak again later at a time when nasal and ocular (eye) discharges become thick and tenacious. These pets have little or no appetite. Blood samples tested early in the disease are always low in certain white blood cells (lymphopenia) but the number may go up as the disease progresses. These dogs soon develop diarrhea with loss of fluid, dehydration and depression. In pets in which the brain is attacked, incoordination, stumbling, seizures and paralysis occur. Both the gray and the white matter of the brain are destroyed. Some dogs become blind during the course of the disease as the virus attacks the retina. Neurological disturbances that may be seen are aggressiveness, disorientation, convulsive movements of the head and paws, and aimless wandering. Others cases develop a clicking gait as the skin of the footpads thickens (hyperkeratosis). Many show a thickening of the skin of the bridge over the nose. If the disease occurs while teeth are still forming, defects in their enamel covering may occur.

Immune suppression:

Because the virus attacks the cells that produce immunity (T and B-lymphocytes) dogs are always immuno-suppressed early in the disease. As the disease progresses through days six to eight, dogs that are destined to recover produce a strong antibody responses that neutralize the virus. The virus-neutralizing antibody produced by the tenth to twentieth day protect the dog from reinfection for years and sometimes for life.

How Is Distemper Diagnosed in My Pet?

Typical disease signs accompanied by very low white blood cell counts (lymphopenia) are highly suggestive of canine distemper. Laboratory tests to positively confirm the disease include fluorescent antibody techniques, polymerase chain reaction, virus isolation and ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay) tests. The demonstration of heavily pigmented inclusion bodies in stained blood neutrophils or in smears from the eye also aid in diagnosis. In animals that die, pathologic changes in tissue samples diagnose the disease. These pathological lesions of canine distemper include congestion and inflammation of the lungs (focal pneumonitis). Characteristic red stained (eosinophilic) oval structures are found in the epithelial cells of the salivary glands, central nervous system, adrenal glands, bile duct, urinary tract, lymph nodes spleen and skin.

What Are The Treatments If My Pet Is Infected?

No antiviral drugs exist that effect canine distemper virus. Because of this, we treat the disease symptomatically. We administer antibiotics because bacteria take advantage of the damaged lining of the intestines and lungs. Intestinal coatings, antispasmodic agents and emollients are given to minimize diarrhea. The dehydration, brought about by diarrhea, is corrected with intravenous electrolyte fluids. This one treatment is probably the most effective thing we can do. Debilitated dogs, unable to eat, benefit from injections of essential vitamins and nutrients. Once dogs develop nervous system signs we have no effective treatment.

How Can I Prevent This Disease In My Pet?

Excellent vaccines are now available to protect dogs from canine distemper virus. These vaccines are manufactured from living, weakened (attenuated) virus that induce long-lasting immunity. Immunity lasts many years. Vaccinations must not be given too early to puppies. The shots must be given to puppies at a time when the level of circulating antibody that they received from their mothers is in decline or the vaccine's effects are neutralized. Twenty percent of this maternal immunity crosses the walls of the womb into the puppy while eighty percent is absorbed from colostrum milk across the intestine. I vaccinate my clients puppies at 10 and 16 weeks of age. Many veterinarians give three injections. I use vaccines that only require boosters every three years. There are veterinarians that utilizes a vaccine against human measles for the first vaccination and give it at a younger age. Human measles is a similar virus, to canine distemper. Please do not over-vaccinate adult dogs. Read an article I have written on the subject.

Other Ways Distemper Can Be Controlled:

Dogs with this disease should be quarantined and scrupulously isolated from susceptible dogs. A good disinfectant containing phenol, or a 1:20 dilution of household bleach kills the virus instantly.

Several years ago there was speculation and supposed statistical evidence that canine distemper virus was in some way associated with multiple sclerosis of man. Several studies done over the last fifteen years have failed to show any such connection.


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