Getting your puppy vaccinated for distemper is essential – but there are also a number of treatment options if the disease does develop.

Distemper in dogs was once a serious problem, and it was not uncommon for it to kill 50% of adult dogs and 80% of puppies who developed the disease. Nowadays, it is one of the most prominent examples of the success of vaccinations and it is very rare for dogs to become seriously infected. It is still common, however, and the majority of dogs come into contact with it at some stage or another, though a small percentage of those actually develop any symptoms.

Distemper can be described as a virus that enters a dog’s body and spreads to lymph nodes where it kills lymphocytes – the cells whose function is natural viral defense – so that the immune system is weakened, and the virus is allowed to spread to other parts of the body. It progresses to the lungs where it can cause pneumonia, to the gastrointestinal tract where it will cause diarrhea or dehydration and ultimately to the brain where it can cause encephalitis, paralysis and seizures and this usually results in the dog’s death – either from the virus itself or from being euthanized.

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Needless to say, vaccinations for distemper in dogs are still a vital part of preventing your puppy from getting the disease, and along with vaccinations for parvovirus they are the most essential shots for a young puppy to receive. As a result of vaccinations the disease very rarely causes any problem, though there are also now a number of modern treatments that can be used to combat the disease if it does.

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