|Mercy Animal Hospital
Dr. Thomas B. McMillen
1395 New London Avenue
Cranston, Rhode Island 02920
What is Distemper? Does it make a dog angry? Will the vaccination affect the dog's temperment?
When giving the 'Distemper' vaccination, the question often arises 'What is distemper actually? What does the name mean?'
Back in the Victorian era, the late 1800's, medicine was belatedly entering the scientific era and developing such methods as aseptic surgery and anesthsia. At this time it was felt that health and behavior was controlled by the fluids, or 'tempers', of the body, such as bile, phlegm, and blood. Which predominated determined your 'temperment', (get it?) This is where terms such a 'phlegmatic', 'bilious', or 'sanguine', (referring to blood -as in 'exsanguinate'), to describe a person's temperment came from.
If the tempers of the body REALLY became out of balance then you became, (you guessed it) "distempered', or ill. Thus, the term 'distemper' simply means illness. Therefore, the term 'canine distemper' basically means 'the dog plague'. The term simply means that it is an old disease which has been around for centuries. For example, while dog distemper is a respiratory/brain disease, cat distemper is a gastrointestinal disease, (extreme vomiting and diarrhea), and horse distemper causes abscesses around the throat. The diseases have nothing in common except that they are old, highly contagious, and bad.