Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) | Distemper in Dogs

Canine distemper virus (CDV) is a highly contagious viral disease in domestic dogs and other animals such as ferrets, skunks, and raccoons. It is an incurable, often fatal, multi-system disease that infects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems.

There is no known cure for CDV, and a quick response to the disease greatly improves your pet’s chances of survival, especially for younger puppies. Because of its seriousness, we recommend contacting a pet veterinarian as soon as you suspect something is wrong.

What is the distemper virus in dogs?

The paramyxovirus virus causes distemper (CDV) in dogs. Animals become infected through contact with urine, blood, saliva, or respiratory droplets. Their transmission is usually through droplets. It can be spread through sneezing,coughing or contaminated water bowls and food.

Canine distemper (CDV) can occur year-round, but the virus is resistant to cold. Most cases of domestic dogs occur in late fall and winter.

The disease is mainly spread by direct contact between a susceptible dog and a dog showing symptoms. The virus can be spread over short distances by coughing and sneezing.

Symptoms of Canine Distemper Virus

Canine distemper initially attacks the lymph nodes and tonsils. Symptoms may not be noticeable for the first 5 to 9 days.

Pay close attention to your pet for any of the following diseases, as they may indicate canine distemper virus (CDV):

Bloodshot eyes.


Diagnosis and treatment of CDV



Lack of interest in food.

Lethargy and fatigue.


Thickening of the skin on the legs and nose.



The watery discharge comes out from the eyes and nose.

How do dogs get canine distemper?

Your dog can get canine distemper from being around other dogs or wild animals that have the virus. Puppies or older dogs that have not been vaccinated are most vulnerable. Dogs living in shelters can also be vulnerable because their vaccinations may not be up to date.

Distemper vaccine for dogs

Like most viral infections, there is no specific treatment. Antibiotics (e.g., ampicillin. and amoxicillin) are not effective against viruses but help control secondary bacterial infections to treat pain to help reduce the intensity of signs and symptoms.

This is accomplished with hospitalization to provide the patient dog with intensive nursing care, intravenous fluid therapy, and symptomatic treatment for diarrhea, vomiting, cough, etc. In some cases, anti-seizure medications (e.g., diazepam, brand name Valium) may be needed.

How to prevent a dog from getting infected with the distemper virus?

Canine distemper virus picture

Fortunately, there are highly effective vaccines to prevent this deadly distemper virus. These vaccines are given to puppies at 8, 12, and 16 weeks, along with other routine vaccines. After the initial puppy vaccine booster, additional distemper vaccine boosters should be given to adult dogs.

Your veterinarian will help you determine how often your dog should receive a booster vaccine. Recently, some distemper vaccines have been approved for booster intervals of three years, meaning they are only needed every three years.

Vet for canine distemper

You should go to your vet when your dog shows signs of canine distemper. Canine distemper virus is a highly contagious disease in dogs. And it requires aggressive medical treatment.

Your vet may run various tests such as:



Infectious viral hepatitis

Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Blood or spinal fluid test

Biopsy of the footpad to test for viral DNA

Swelling of the throat, nose, or red eyes, or urine or bone marrow samples

Some Treatments for Canine Distemper Virus

Admitted to hospital

Broad-spectrum antibiotics


Fever reducers

IV nutrition


Seizure medications

Permanent Health Problems From

Canine distemper in puppies is serious and often fatal, as younger dogs are more vulnerable to viral infections. Adult dogs can be cured of canine distemper. But often, there are permanent neurological or central nervous disorders. to like:

Brain damage

Jaw spasm

Muscle twitching

Nerve damage


These symptoms may or may not appear until later in life.

Final thoughts

A dog can recover from canine distemper virus (CDV) disease. The recovery of this disease usually depends on the strength of the dog’s immune system and the strain of distemper they have contracted. It can take up to 60 days for a full recovery.

Some pet specialist studies show that vaccinated dogs acquire immunity four days after contracting the disease. And it can be totally fine. We recommend that you seek immediate veterinary attention if your pet is suspected of being exposed to the disease.

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