Canine distemper virus

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Immunohistochemistry of viral antigens in dog epithelial cells[1]

Canine distemper virus is a paramyxovirus and the causative agent of distemper in dogs.

Canine distemper virus is a paramyxovirus closely related to the viruses of measles and rinderpest. The enveloped virus is sensitive to lipid solvents and most disinfectants and is relatively unstable outside the host. The main route of infection is via aerosol droplet secretions from infected animals. Some infected dogs may shed virus for several months.

Virus initially replicates in the lymphatic tissue of the respiratory tract. A cell-associated viremia results in infection of all lymphatic tissues, which is followed by infection of respiratory, GI, and urogenital epithelium, as well as the CNS and optic nerves. Disease follows virus replication in these tissues.

The degree of viremia and extent of spread of virus to various tissues is moderated by the level of specific humoral immunity in the host during the viremic period.

Detection of the virus in dogs usually requires PCR assay identification of viral proteins[2].


  1. Piper Basenji
  2. Pandher K et al (2006) Interstitial pneumonia in neonatal canine pups with evidence of canine distemper virus infection. J Vet Diagn Invest 18(2):201-204