Ever wonder what that alphabet soup of letters in your dog’s distemper vaccine stands for? A distemper vaccine is more than a preventive against canine distemper virus. This vaccine, considered a core vaccine for all dogs in the United States, also protects against a host of other diseases you may not know your dog is susceptible to. These can include adenovirus, parvovirus, and others.


Canine distemper is a serious, highly contagious disease with a death rate approaching 50 percent. The canine distemper vaccine is typically given in some variation of a combination vaccine that also protects your pet from several other serious diseases.

Vaccine Characteristics

The exact combination of your dog’s distemper combination vaccine depends on your dog’s age and individual disease-risk profile, but in general, the most important diseases that the vaccine protects against are canine distemper, canine adenovirus-2 infection (hepatitis and respiratory disease), canine parvovirus infection, and parainfluenza. The abbreviation for this combination vaccine is frequently written as “DHPP,” “DA2PP,” “DHPPV,” or “DA2PPV” on a pet’s health records.

The letters in these abbreviations are defined as follows:

D = Canine distemper virus. Infection with this virus is serious, with a death rate approaching 50 percent in untreated dogs. The virus attacks the respiratory, digestive, and brain/nervous systems of dogs.

H = Hepatitis (or A2). Because this vaccine protects against canine adenovirus-2 and canine adenovirus-1, it is often referred to as A2. Canine adenovirus-1 causes canine infectious hepatitis, a serious disease that affects the liver. Canine adenovirus-2 causes respiratory disease and is one of the infectious agents commonly associated with tracheobronchitis, also known as kennel cough.

A2 = Canine adenovirus-2 (or H). This virus causes a respiratory disease in dogs (see above).

P = Parvovirus. Infection with this virus is highly contagious and serious, with a death rate approaching 90 percent in untreated dogs. The virus attacks the digestive and immune systems of unvaccinated animals, causing debilitating diarrhea and vomiting.

P = Parainfluenza. This virus causes a mild respiratory disease in dogs.

Therefore, a notation of “DA2PPV,” “DHPP,” DA2PP,” or “DHPPV” in a pet’s vaccination record means that your pet was vaccinated against canine distemper, hepatitis (canine adenovirus-2 and -1), parvovirus, and parainfluenza.

Other distemper combination vaccine components (which may be appropriate depending on an individual patient’s risk profile) may include the following:

C = Coronavirus. This causes a highly contagious viral disease in dogs. The disease typically affects the intestinal tract, causing vomiting and diarrhea. Vaccination against this virus is generally considered noncore (optional) but may be recommended in areas where coronavirus is very common.

L = Leptospirosis. This potentially serious bacterial disease attacks the kidneys and liver of infected dogs and can be transmitted to humans. Vaccination against this disease is generally considered noncore but may be recommended in areas where leptospirosis is common.

B = Bordetella. Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterium that causes respiratory disease in dogs. It is one of the most common bacterial causes of canine infectious tracheobronchitis, which is also sometimes called kennel cough. Bordetella is highly contagious, easily transmitted through direct contact or the air, and resistant to destruction in the environment. Though not considered a core vaccine, Bordetella vaccine may be recommended for dogs whose lifestyle places them at greater risk of contracting the disease. This includes dogs that are boarded frequently or that regularly visit grooming parlors or dog parks regularly.

The Importance of Dog Health Insurance

Dog health insurance can help you pay for unexpected health expenses, surgeries, or medications of senior dogs. It’s important to purchase insurance before there’s a problem. While pet insurance may add to your monthly expenses, it can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in the long run.

Don’t ever let financial decisions get in the way of your dog’s care. Review personalized options for your pet below:

This article has been reviewed by a Veterinarian.