You probably know how important it is to take your new puppy to the vet for a rabies vaccination, but you may not realize routine pet vaccinations can protect your dog against other deadly diseases throughout your pet's life. Canine distemper is one disease that was once common and deadly. While it hasn't been eradicated, it can be prevented with vaccinations. Here's a look at this dog disease and how to keep your dog from getting it.

Canine Distemper Is Contagious

Distemper is a contagious viral disease that can spread readily among unvaccinated dogs in shelters. The virus is spread through the air when an infected dog sneezes or coughs. It can also be spread through secretions that contaminate objects. This is one reason vaccinations are required before you're allowed to board your dog. The vaccines protect the dogs from diseases such as distemper that spread among dogs in close contact.

If your new puppy is a rescue dog, there's a risk the puppy wasn't cared for properly, including getting the necessary vaccines at an early age. That, plus a weakened immune system, puts a rescue puppy at a higher risk of contracting distemper.

Distemper Affects Different Body Systems

Distemper can make your dog have respiratory symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose. Your dog might have a fever and eye discharge. Distemper also affects the GI tract, so your puppy might have vomiting and diarrhea. A serious problem with distemper is that it also affects a dog's nervous system. This might cause your dog to have seizures or even permanent brain damage. Any time your puppy seems sick, it's good to have a vet exam to rule out serious diseases, especially if your puppy is a rescue dog and has a weakened immune system from a rough start in life and living in a shelter.

Distemper Is Hard To Treat But Easy To Prevent

If your puppy develops distemper, hospitalization may be required. Distemper is difficult to treat since it's a virus that runs its course. The vet can treat conditions caused by the virus such as pneumonia and seizures, but the outcome for your dog may not be good. That's why immunization is so important. When your puppy has the core vaccines at the right age, they are protected from distemper and other deadly dog diseases. Whether you adopt a puppy or adult dog, the vet can start the series of vaccines that are important for safeguarding your dog's health. Then, your dog will need booster shots throughout their life for ongoing protection.

To learn more about pet vaccinations, contact a vet in your area.