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Dog distemper vaccine being administered by a veterinarian

Distemper vaccination protects dog from deadly disease

Q: The veterinarian recently vaccinated our cockapoo Ginger against distemper. I don’t understand why she needs this vaccine, since she’s one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever known. May we skip the vaccine in the future?

A: No, because the distemper combination vaccine protects her from several viral diseases, some of which are deadly. The distemper virus causes a range of problems, including brain damage, blindness and other abnormalities. Despite its name, it does not affect her temperament. 

Most veterinarians administer a distemper combination vaccine that also protects against parvovirus, adenovirus and parainfluenza. Parvovirus is a common cause of diarrhea, vomiting and death, particularly in puppies. Adenovirus causes hepatitis and respiratory disease. The parainfluenza virus is one cause of kennel cough.

Some distemper combination vaccines also protect against leptospirosis and Lyme, two bacterial diseases. Leptospirosis produces kidney and liver failure, and Lyme disease causes joint and kidney damage.

Ask your veterinarian to remind you when Ginger’s next vaccination is due.

Editor’s Note: Figo customers may use the Shots & Reminders feature on the Figo Pet Cloud to schedule important vaccine reminders like distemper.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at

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