Distemper is a contagious viral disease of dogs. It is often fatal. The disease is caused by a virus, more specifically, a paramyxovirus similar to the virus that causes measles in human beings. The virus is shed in the saliva, mucus, urine and other body fluids of infected dogs. Generally, dogs become infected when they inhale the Virus particles. The virus initially spreads from the lungs to the lymph nodes and bone marrow. It then infects and damages the epithelial lining of many organs. Epithelium is the microscopic layer of cells that lines internal and external body surfaces, including the wall of the intestinal tract, the lungs, the conjunctiva (the membrane that covers the eyeball and lines the eyelids), the blood vessels, and the skin.
The infection causes immuno-suppression inhibiting the body’s defenses against Distemper virus, bacteria and other organisms. These organisms can cause complications such as pneumonia and intestinal infections followed by seizure and death. The canine distemper virus vaccination is over 98% effective in protecting our pets from this deadly disease.