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Q: Our puppy has been temperamental lately. We think that it's because her distemper shot is almost due. Will she calm down if we get her distemper shot boosted?

A: It's a common misconception that distemper vaccines have some effect on a dog's temperament. The name is probably a source of confusion.

Historically, the word distemper meant ill humored, deranged or unsettled. Presently we use the word as an abbreviation for canine distemper virus.

Canine distemper virus is a very contagious and deadly disease that can infect multiple species including pet dogs, wild dogs, ferrets, raccoons, and skunks. Infected animals have fevers, coughing, sneezing, pneumonia, and severe vomiting and diarrhea. The virus attacks the nervous system as well and can cause twitching, seizures, weakness and behavior changes.

It is likely that a description of the neurologic signs of this disease is the source of its name. There is no specific treatment for canine distemper virus.

Presently in our area it's extremely rare for pet dogs to become infected with canine distemper virus. When administered appropriately, distemper vaccine is able to prevent infection nearly 100 percent of the time.

Distemper vaccine will not turn your little devil into an angel. The vaccine will prevent a devastating disease. Your veterinarian can help you set up a proper vaccination protocol and also give you some tips on how to tame your ill-tempered puppy.

Prepared as a public service by the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society. Send questions to Pets, P.O. Box 1252, Buffalo, N.Y. 14205 or to the Web site at Sorry, personal replies cannot be provided.

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