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Canine Distemper

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Canine distemper virus
Virus classification
Group: Group V ((-)ssRNA)
Order: Mononegavirales
Family: Paramyxoviridae
Genus: Morbillivirus
Species: Canine distemper virus

Canine distemper is a viral disease affecting animals in the families Canidae, Mustelidae, Mephitidae, Procyonidae, and possibly Felidae (though not domestic cats; feline distemper or panleukopenia is a similar, but different, virus exclusive to cats).


Dogs from four months to four years old are particularly susceptible. It prevails most in spring and autumn. Canine distemper virus (CDV) spreads through the air and through contact with infected bodily fluids. The time between infection and disease is 14 to 18 days.

Canine distemper virus has a tropism for lymphoid, epithelial, and nervous tissues. Therefore, the typical pathologic features of canine distemper include lymphoid depletion (causing immunosuppression and leading to secondary infections), interstitial pneumonia, encephalitis with demyelination, and hyperkeratosis of foot pads . Histologic examination reveals intranuclear and intracytoplasmic eosinophilic inclusion bodies in numerous tissues.


  • Dullness and redness of the eye
  • Discharge from nose
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Shivering
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite and energy
  • Weight loss
  • Seizures
  • Thickened footpads


The above symptoms, especially fever, respiratory signs, neurological signs, and thickened footpads found in unvaccinated dogs strongly indicate canine distemper. Finding the virus by various methods in the dog's conjunctival cells gives a definitive diagnosis.

Treatment and prevention

There is no specific treatment for canine distemper. The dog should be treated by a veterinarian, usually with antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections, intravenous fluids, and nutritional supplements. The prognosis is poor.

There exist a number of vaccines against canine distemper for dogs and domestic ferrets, which in many jurisdictions are mandatory for pets. The type of vaccine should be approved for the type of animal being inoculated, or else the animal could actually contract the disease from the vaccine. Animals should be quarantined if infected. The virus is destroyed in the environment by routine cleaning with disinfectants.


  • Ettinger, Stephen J.;Feldman, Edward C.(1995).Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine(4th ed.). W.B. Saunders Company. ISBN 0-7216-6795-3

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