, Newburyport, MA


April 12, 2013

Paw Prints: Protect against canine distemper


My dog had his first set of puppy shots. Is that enough to protect him?

A puppy’s immune system is unable to provide long-term distemper protection. Young Fido’s immune system must be taught how to do this. Puppies should have pediatric visits every three to four weeks until they are at least four months old. There are multiple reasons for this schedule, and boosting distemper immunity is one of them.

The breeder told me my puppy was exposed to distemper when he was young. He seems fine now. Do I need to worry?

Even if Fido Jr. survived distemper as a puppy, he may have health consequences later. Some dogs develop “hard pad disease” or “old dog encephalitis.” The virus can hide in dogs, only to resurface years later. These affected dogs can have symptoms that range from thickened footpads to brain inflammation.

How can I protect my dog from the current distemper outbreak?

Fortunately, excellent vaccines are available to protect dogs from this deadly virus. Puppies should have a series of vaccines, and adult dogs need regular boosters.


Dr. Heidi Bassler practices at Bassler Veterinary Hospital ( She hosts a radio show, “Your Pet’s Health,” every Sunday morning at 8:30 on AM-1450 WNBP. Do you have questions for Dr. Bassler? Send them to

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