Distemper Vaccine for Cats & Dogs

The distemper vaccine is considered by vets to be a core vaccine, meaning it is not optional. You may need proof of the vaccine when you register your pet, or before your pet can enter certain areas, such as boarding facilities or dog parks. 

Like most vaccines, it works by injecting a small amount of inactivated or weakened organism or antigen fragments under the skin of the dog or cat. Their immune system can learn how to fight off these organisms, almost like a practice round. If your pet is ever exposed to the real thing, their immune system will protect them from infection.

The vaccination is available for both cats and dogs. Although they have the same name, feline distemper, and canine distemper are not the same virus. They are two separate, unrelated conditions. Cats cannot catch distemper from dogs, and vice versa. 

However, there are certain animals that can catch both versions, including raccoons, minxes, skunks, and otters. These animals can then transfer the disease to your pet while he is outdoors.

There are a few similarities between canine distemper and feline distemper. Firstly, they both target newborn puppies and kitties, very old animals, pregnant females, and those with unusually weak immune systems. 

In addition, both diseases are highly contagious and have a high mortality rate, which is why this vaccine is so important. 

Canine Distemper Vaccine

Canine distemper is spread through direct contact or airborne exposure. 

When a diseased animal coughs, barks, or sneezes, it releases infected aerosol droplets that can be inhaled by other animals. Infected animals can spread the disease for several months.

Alternatively, if the pet uses shared surfaces, like a food dish or water bowl, he can also be at risk for infection. The good news is that most basic disinfectants will work against this virus.

Pregnant dogs can also transfer the disease to their offspring through the placenta. 

Canine distemper initially affects the respiratory tract, but as it grows more serious, it will move on to the lymphatic tissues, the GI tract, the urogenital epithelium, the central nervous system, and the optic nerves.

The canine distemper vaccine is first given to puppies around 8 weeks of age, ideally. The initial vaccine will include two or three doses. One year later, the puppy will need a booster. As an adult, the dog may need a booster every year or every 3 years depending on his risk level and the discretion of your vet.

 Feline Distemper Vaccine

Feline distemper, on the other hand, primarily attacks white blood cells and the intestinal lining. It is spread through bodily fluids, most commonly urine, feces, or blood. 

Infected cats are only contagious for a few days. However, even after the contagion period, the disease can spread through infected surfaces such as bedding, cages, food dishes, and litter boxes. Only harsh cleaners such as bleach can kill the virus. 

Pregnant and nursing females can transfer the disease to their offspring, often causing death.

The vaccination is recommended for cats at around 8 weeks of age. Additional doses are necessary every 3 to 4 weeks until they reach the age of 16  weeks. A year after the initial series, your cat will need one booster shot. 

Vaccinations for Cats & Dogs in Frederick, MD

There is currently no cure for canine distemper, and although it can be treated, this is extremely difficult. Feline distemper may be curable but often requires days of hospitalization with 24-hour intensive care. Prevention is the best medicine. You can protect your dog or cat today, by bringing him to Old Farm Veterinary Hospital. 

We provide all the vaccinations your furry friends need to live a long, healthy life. Conveniently located in Frederick, Maryland, we are the supreme choice for veterinary wellness.  

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