Canine distemper virus (CDV) (sometimes termed “footpad disease”) is a viral disease that affects a wide variety of mammal families, including domestic and wild species of dogs, coyotes, foxes, pandas, wolves, ferrets, skunks, raccoons, and felines, as well as pinnipeds, some primates, and a variety of other species. CDV does not affect humans.
In canines, CDV affects several body systems, including the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, the spinal cord, and the brain. Common symptoms include high fever, eye inflammation and eye/nose discharge, labored breathing and coughing, vomiting and diarrhea, loss of appetite and lethargy, and hardening of the nose and footpads. The viral infection can be accompanied by secondary bacterial infections and can eventually present serious neurological symptoms.
Canine distemper is caused by a single-stranded RNA virus of the family Paramyxoviridae (the same family of viruses that causes measles, mumps, and bronchiolitis in humans). The disease is highly contagious via inhalation. Morbidity and mortality may vary greatly among animal species, with up to 100% mortality in unvaccinated populations of ferrets. In domestic dogs, while the acute generalized form of distemper has a high mortality rate, disease duration and severity depend mainly on the animal's age, immune status, and the virulence of the infecting strain of the virus. Despite extensive vaccination in many regions, it remains a major disease in dogs and was the leading cause of infectious disease death in dogs prior to a vaccine becoming available.