Emergency Care

The Truth About Canine Distemper Vaccinations

I feel pretty confident that my two dogs are safe from canine distemper, but are they really? They’re both 7 years old and, depending on the veterinarian you talk to, should both be due for boosters against canine distemper.

I really hope you’re not worried that your dog has distemper, but if you are, I’m going to talk about the symptoms to watch for, and the benefit of the canine distemper vaccine.

 I want you to keep in mind that if your dog was vaccinated against the virus as a pup, there’s a good chance that it’s still working.


Actually, it’s still around and unless dog owners around the world are doing their part to ensure proper vaccinations, there’s a chance the disease could make a come-back.

Canine distemper is a serious illness with no known cure. It affects:

  • Pet dogs
  • Coyotes
  • Wolves
  • Fox
  • Skunk
  • Racoons
  • Ferrets

YES, Animals can catch canine distemper from each other!

Did you see what I did there? I answered your question before you had a chance to ask.

Any dog that has come into contact with the virus whether it be through shared drinking water, particles in the air, or a bite from another animal, is at risk of catching the deadly virus.

Not sure if your dog is due for a booster?  Call your veterinarian or dig out your dog’s health file.


Symptoms of canine distemper include:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes in your dog’s neck. Distemper enters the body and first settles in the lymphatic system.
  • The virus replicates itself until there is enough of the virus to attack the lungs, gastrointestinal lining, urogenital system, and the dog’s nervous system.
  • Early signs of canine distemper include red eyes with a persistent, water discharge.
  • The dog will also appear to be very tired and will lose appetite; also known as anorexia.


  • As the condition worsens, the dog will vomit, cough persistently, and have diarrhea.
  • The infection will continue to move through the dog’s body. As it infiltrates the spinal columns, seizures are common.
  • The dog is quite dangerous and will easily attack hysterically without warning.
  • As the nervous system is quickly damaged, the dog will succumb to tremors in the head or other parts of the body.
  • Your dog may stumble when he walks as a result of the attack to the nervous system.
  • You may notice the pads on the paws will harden or increase in size.


The sad truth is that there is no cure and the prognosis is not good. The only medications available are those that will help the dog remain comfortable. Once diagnosed with canine distemper, follow-up care is mostly palliative.


That might be true. Some things to consider are:

  • The initial age the dog was when he/she was vaccinated.
  • The size of the dog.
  • The overall general health of the dog.
  • Whether a booster schedule was followed.

In rare cases, dogs who’ve been inoculated could still catch the virus. However, it’s important to note that the vaccine itself does not cause dogs to catch distemper.

While the vaccine does use a microscopic amount of live virus, it’s not enough to stimulate a full-blown illness. What it does, however, is trigger the dog’s immune system to develop antibodies against distemper.


Vaccinations have always carried some controversy with consideration to any live ingredients and the risk of serious complications due to the vaccine itself.

In my opinion, the risks of the vaccination are much lower than the risk of transmission to dogs who have not been inoculated.  Remember, those raccoons that scarf down whatever is in your garbage can at night could be rampant with the disease. Your dog comes along, comes into contact with the virus, and then it’s too late.


  • Some dogs will get a bump at the injection site. (I get a bump whenever I have a flu shot). Sure, it’s uncomfortable, but only for a short time.
  • Your dog might feel a little tired for the rest of the day after the vaccination.
  • While the vaccination is in there doing its thing, your dog might feel a little sick to his stomach. That’s totally normal!  It will pass.
  • Your dog might temporarily lose his appetite and he might even feel a little weak for a day or two.
  • In extremely rare cases, dogs could go into anaphylactic shock. Please read that again.  In extremely rare cases. 

Ultimately, inoculation are safe and, compared to the alternative, as a wise investment of time and money.


My research led me to an abstract by the Veterinarian Microbiology Journal that suggests the time might come to develop a new strain of vaccine to better protect the pet population.

According to the article, incidents of canine distemper have risen and include previously vaccinated dogs.  But, like the common cold, there’s more than one strain out there.

The article suggests that it might be time to look at a new vaccination to protect dogs against canine distemper.  For now, however, please make sure your dog is updated on all of his/her vaccinations and boosters, as per the veterinarian’s instructions.


The risks of the vaccination are ridiculously small compared to the death-sentence of distemper.


The two main ways used to diagnose canine distemper is through biochemical tests and urine analysis. During the analysis, the number of lymphocytes—white blood cells that are contained in the lymph nodes are greatly reduced.  

The urine sample will often show viral antigens. Mucus may also show antibodies. MRI or Magnetic resonance imaging will show whether there are any lesions on the brain.


Once a dog is infected with canine distemper, the most the veterinarian can do is provide supportive, palliative care. That would include painkillers and the treatment of secondary infections as a result of the compromised immune system.

Antibiotics would be administered for secondary infections. If seizures are present, the doctor will likely administer a course of potassium bromide.

While the dog may survive, some of the negative effects of the disease may remain hidden and only show up when the dog gets older. Seizures may develop along with abnormalities of the teeth.


Don’t think your dog was ever vaccinated against canine distemper?  If you brought the puppy in for regular inoculations and worming, there’s a good chance your dog is protected.

There’s no need to worry. If you’re not sure and you want to find out, contact the veterinarian who would have the dog’s health records.

If you found this article helpful, I’d like you to take a minute to Tweet, Pin, or share to facebook so that someone else might benefit from the information.

From Visually.




I also want to thank you for taking the time to read this post and I hope you’ll come back for more.

Before you leave, why not find out more about me and where my love of dogs originated?  When you’re done, go ahead and share that too.


32 Common Poisonous Plants for Dogs


Poisonous plants for dogs are present year-round. Your garden, public parks, the neighbor’s house, and your friends, might have one or two plants that are particularly toxic to dogs if ingested.

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Thankfully, most adult dogs generally aren’t lured to poisonous or toxic plants. Unless your begonias taste like bacon, your adult dog is not likely going to eat poisonous plants.

By the time you’ve finished reading this post, you’ll have a nice guide of the most common poisonous plants for dogs.


Keeping puppy away from poisonous pants for dogs.

Puppies, however, are like young babies who want/need to put everything in their mouths. That’s how they learn about the world around them. Unfortunately, that can be a hard lesson for everyone involved. 

However, even if your puppy does manage to ingest a small petal or stem, it’s likely he/she will only experience mild symptoms if any.   That said, please watch for side effects like the ones listed below.

The following is a sample of some of the more common poisonous plants for dogs that could be in your house or backyard. Keep in mind that some of these plants might have different blooming seasons depending on the geographical area/climate. 



  • Amaryllis – also summer/winter 

TOXIC EFFECTS:  Vomiting, depression, low blood pressure, abdominal pain, drooling, loss of appetite, seizures


  • Begonia

TOXIC EFFECTS:  Severe burning of the lips and tongue, excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, vomiting


  • Gardenia

TOXIC EFFECTS: Mild vomiting and diarrhea


  • Elephant Ears

TOXIC EFFECTS:  Irritation of the mouth, mouth pain, swelling of the lips and tongue, drooling a lot, vomiting, hard to swallow


  • Hellebore

TOXIC EFFECTS:  Tummy pain, diarrhea, depression, excessive drooling


  • Hyacinth

TOXIC EFFECTSIntense vomiting, diarrhea (could be bloody), tremors and depression


  • Larkspur

TOXIC EFFECTS:  Less toxic as they mature, could cause constipation, extra salivation, heart failure, respiratory system shut down.


A Trick to Avoid an Emergency Call

Again, it’s unlikely that an adult dog will purposely swallow the leaves, stems, or buds of most flowers, shrubs, or trees.  Unsupervised puppies, however, are another thing. 

It feels safe to let them run around your home but – like babies – there are some general dangers you should keep in mind. 

Get Low and Look Around!

Get down to the puppy’s level and have a look around.  Big leaves hanging from a plant? Petals from a flower vase that have come loose and drifted to the floor?  Pick them up or move them out of the house.  I’ve had to pry a puppy’s mouth open (gently) and pluck out a leaf or two now and then. They’re fast!


  • Tulips

TOXIC EFFECTS:  vomiting, depression, diarrhea, over salivation




  • Amaryllis

TOXIC EFFECTS: (see Spring)


  • Philodendron

TOXIC EFFECTS: drooling, pawing at the mouth, mouth pain, low appetite and vomiting


  • Eucalyptus

TOXIC EFFECTS:  Salvation, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and weakness


  • Gardenia

TOXIC EFFECTS:  mild vomiting and diarrhea


  • Sago Palm

TOXIC EFFECTS: vomiting, jaundice, thirstier than usual, internal bleeding, easily bruised, liver damage, death


  • Calla Lilly

TOXIC EFFECTS:  Mouth pain, diarrhea, drooling, low appetite, paws at the mouth


The YUCK Factor

Plants that are poisonous to dogs will not be particularly tasty to a dog, so it’s likely they’ll spit it out before swallowing. BUT, there are always those not-so-discerning dogs that will literally eat just out anything in front of them.  If that sounds like your dog, I’m afraid you’re going to have to keep a pretty close eye on him.


  • Apple Tree

TOXIC EFFECT: Red mucous membranes, look for dilated pupils and difficulty breathing. The dog might be panting and could go into shock. Note: Leave, stems, and seeds all contain cyanide and especially toxic when in the wilting stage.


  • The Burning Bush Can be Poisonous for Dogs

TOXIC EFFECTS: Vomiting, diarrhea, tummy pain, weakness, heart rhythm abnormality


  • Oleander

TOXIC EFFECTS: Bloody diarrhea, sweating, unsteady on feet, shallow breathing, muscle tremors.  Note:  Large ingestion can cause death.


  • Boxwood

TOXIC EFFECTS: Heart & Lung congestion, liver and kidney failure



  • Branching Ivy

TOXIC EFFECTS:  Vomiting, abdominal pain, drooling excessively, diarrhea.  Note:  Foliage especially toxic.


  • California Ivy

TOXIC EFFECTS:  Vomiting, Abdominal pain, drooling, diarrhea


  • Cardinal Flowers

TOXIC EFFECTS:  Depression, diarrhea, vomiting, drooling, abdominal pain, heart rhythm disturbance


  • Chamomile

TOXIC EFFECTS:  Dermatitis (allergic reaction), vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia


  • Dahlia

TOXIC EFFECTS:  Upset stomach, mild dermatitis


  • Fiddle Leaf

TOXIC EFFECTS:  Oral irritation, intense mouth burning, drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing


  • Household Poisons

The biggest threat to all dogs are the chemical poisons that are so readily available. 

If a dog swallows any amount of antifreeze, it should be considered an emergency.  Antifreeze has a sweet quality to it that lures dogs and it’s easy as lapping up some that have leaked into puddles.


  • Lemon Grass

TOXIC EFFECTS: Mild Stomach Upset


  • Mayweed

TOXIC EFFECTS: Contact dermatitis, vomiting, diarrhea, no appetite


  • Ornamental Peppers

TOXIC EFFECTS: Upset stomach to more severe ulceration of the gastrointestinal system, seizures, depression, respiratory failure, shock


  • Wisteria

TOXIC EFFECTS: vomiting (sometimes bloody), diarrhea, depression

Rat poison is another one that’s highly dangerous.  Food isn’t always food. There have been instances where people have purposely put rat poison inside a steak, or some other type of food to possibly kill wildlife.  Unfortunately, that attempt usually only endangers household pets. 


  • Yarrow

TOXIC EFFECTS: vomiting, diarrhea, depression, anorexia, excessive drooling




  • English Ivy

TOXIC EFFECTS: Drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain


  • Amaryllis

TOXIC EFFECTS:  (See Spring and/or Summer)

  • Hosta (year-round depending on the type of Hosta)

TOXIC EFFECTS: vomiting, diarrhea, depression


  • Arrowhead Plant (INDOOR – All year)

TOXIC EFFECTS:  vomiting, depression, diarrhea, low appetite, chills, urine may change color


  • Apple Tree (particularly the leaves, stems, and seeds of the Crab Apple Tree)

TOXIC EFFECTS: Red mucous membranes, pupils may be dilated, difficulty breathing and chock


  • Burning Bush 



  • Oleander 



The bottom line is keeping our dogs safe, whether it’s potentially poisonous plants, food, or chemicals around the house. 

We both know that dogs are a huge responsibility, but a fulfilling one. They trust us with their lives, and we trust them with our hearts.

There’s no need to be constantly on edge when it comes to poisonous plants around the house and garden. The important thing is to just be aware of what your healthy adult dog is up to.  Puppies?  That’s another story.

You’re going to have to be the 24/7 monitor – at least until they get a little more savvy with the world around them.

Thank you!

I want to thank you for reading this post and I hope you’ll come back for more! Make sure to sign up to my newsletter so you don’t miss out on upcoming courses, trending posts, and more.

Questions for me:  Email me directly: latheriault@hugspetproducts.com