Distemper Vaccine

June 2019

What is the DHPP vaccine? What is the DHLPP vaccine? How do they differ and why do our dogs need them?

What we call the “Distemper” vaccine that we typically give our canine patients is actually a combination vaccine designed to protect against 4 or 5 different diseases. It is labeled as the DHPP or DHLPP vaccine, depending on which one we decide to give the individual patient.

Canine Distemper is the “D” in the vaccine; it is a complex disease that can affect the respiratory, neurologic, dermatologic, and other systems in the body of a dog. There is no cure for this illness, and there is a poor prognosis involved. It is rarely seen now because most dogs are vaccinated against this disease starting at 8 weeks of age and they are given 2 boosters when they are puppies and it is boostered every 1 to 3 years depending on the age.

The “H” stands for Canine Hepatitis, which is a viral disease that can affect the liver of a dog. At worst, it can cause liver failure in dogs. It is an infectious disease that is also rarely seen now because it is part of the DHPP vaccine that we try to give every canine patient.

The first “P” is Parainfluenza, a viral disease that affects the respiratory system. It is part of the complex “Kennel Cough” syndrome that is commonly seen particularly after a dog has been exposed to many dogs when boarding or being in a place that has had a recently infected individual spread this disease. Although kennel cough is a common disease, the parainfluenza vaccine reduces the chance of a dog getting it when exposed.

The last “P” is Canine Parvovirus, a viral gastrointestinal disease that can vary in its effect on a dog. It is a common disease in unvaccinated puppies that come from shelters. Its effects are vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, and lethargy. When puppies have this disease, it is always a guarded prognosis, because some puppies do not survive the illness. Luckily, it is a rarely seen illness here at St. Francis Hospital for Animals, as we give multiple boosters of this vaccine to prevent our puppy patients from getting this disease.

The only variable to this vaccine is the “L”, which stands for Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that can affect the liver and kidneys. We give this vaccine only if we think a dog has a chance of being of being exposed to it by drinking or coming into contact with water that is contaminated with the bacteria. The bacteria can be spread by wild animals such as skunks or raccoons when they urinate because the leptospires are carried in the kidneys. Luckily, it is a rarely seen disease, but it can be devastating because of its effects on the body, causing acute kidney failure and/or liver disease.

The DHPP vaccine is considered a “core” vaccine, meaning it is recommended for every dog, regardless of exposure level. The only variable is whether or not we decide to give it with the Leptospirosis or not. If there are any questions, do not hesitate to ask the next time you are in for an appointment.

Dr. Jaime Kozelka
St. Francis Hospital for Animals