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D2004-16

Dear Daisy Dog

My six-year-old shepherd mix has been vaccinated for distemper every year, but her temperament is still bad. How effective is this vaccine?

Daisy Responds

The highly contagious canine distemper virus causes severe, multisystemic disease that may include brain damage. Despite its name, the distemper virus probably isn’t the cause of your dog’s bad temperament.

The canine distemper virus, related to measles virus, can infect many other carnivores, including ferrets, skunks, raccoons and foxes, but not domestic cats.

Clinical signs include fever, loss of appetite, eye and respiratory infections, hard foot pads, vomiting and diarrhea.

When the virus attacks the brain, the dog may have seizures, become uncoordinated, develop an abnormal gait or suffer from other neurological problems. The disease often ends in death, particularly in puppies who have not been vaccinated.

Your dog’s temperament problems should be evaluated by your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist. Behavior modification and sometimes medications are very effective at correcting these problems.

My brothers were “behaviorally challenged” when they moved into our family, and behavior modification helped them – though if you’re a regular reader of this column, you’ve probably noticed that Mom never lets them answer readers’ letters!

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