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Vaccinations for Your Chihuahua – Distemper/Parvo

Vaccinations for Your Chihuahua – Distemper/Parvo

What are Distemper and Parvovirus?

Distemper and Parvovirus are both serious diseases which can affect your Chihuahua and in both cases death can be the end result.  The two diseases are often discussed together because they are most often vaccinated together.  Distemper and Parvo are given as a combination vaccine three times when your Chi is a puppy and then usually annually after that.

Distemper affects the nervous system and many body organs.  Symptoms include listlessness, fever, coughing, diarrhea, vomiting and discharge from the eyes and nose.  In the final stages of the disease your pet may experience convulsions and paralysis. 

Parvovirus is a gastrointestinal disease which causes severe vomiting and diarrhea.  Unlike other tummy upsets that plague all dogs from time to time with Parvo the intestinal lining becomes damaged and infection spreads into the bloodstream. 

The Seriousness Factor

In terms of seriousness Distemper and Parvovirus are both incredibly serious diseases and you should be aware of the consequences to your Chi.  Young puppies are the most vulnerable to these two diseases because they don’t have strong enough immune systems to fight the infection.  The most vulnerable point in a puppy’s life is when the initial immunity they received from their mother is wearing off but they haven’t yet developed their own antibodies.

Small dogs like Chihuahuas are often particular susceptible to a fast decline when disease strikes.  Their small body size means they have less fluid to lose before dehydration from illness becomes a critical concern.

The lesson to learn here is that no matter how cute your new Chi puppy is and how much you want to show him or her off – resist the urge.  Your new Chi should not be in contact with other dogs until they are fully vaccinated and protected from contagious illnesses.  The exception to this rule is to socialize your Chi only with dogs that you are 100% certain are up to date on vaccines.  Your Chi will still be absolutely adorable in three months time and that’s when you can dress them up in some funky Chihuahua clothes and show them off to everyone.


Almost all dogs will come in contact with Distemper sometime in their life.  It is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids – so dog to dog contact of almost any form can spread the disease.  To make matters worse it can also be spread through airborne droplets expelled from an infected dog, such as by a sneeze. 

Parvovirus is spread through infected fecal matter.  Many owners believe that if their little one is too fastidious to touch another dogs poop then they are safe.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Parvo is an incredibly resistant virus and can survive on surfaces for months, both inside and outside.  This means that even if the feces have been cleaned up from the local park, traces of the virus can remain in the grass for months waiting to infect your unsuspecting and unvaccinated Chi.


Vaccination against both Distemper and Parvovirus begins at about eight weeks of age.  Two follow up booster vaccines are given roughly one month and two months after the first dose.  Your Chi will not be considered fully protected until all three doses have been given.

Usually the vaccines are given in combination but can be administered separately if you or your veterinarian has concerns about giving them together.  Most of the vaccines are licensed for one year but there are also three year vaccines now available so discuss the choice with your vet.

The last thing to know about protecting your Chi from these two diseases is that titre testing is available.  Titre testing involves testing a blood sample to check the level of antibodies your dog has to Distemper and Parvovirus.  If there are enough antibodies then your dog can skip vaccinations for that year.  However, in terms of cost if you run the blood test and then find that vaccines are still needed you have effectively doubled your annual vaccination cost.  Many owners simply decide to vaccinate annually and forgo the titre testing.  However, the option is available if you chose to take advantage of it.


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