Canine distemper cirus (CDV) is a member of the genus Morbillivirus from the family Paramyxoviridae. It has a large diameter, which can range in size from 150 to 250 µm. Internally, there is a single negative-stranded RNA which is enclosed by a nucleocasid. This RNA serves as a template for production of progeny. The virus is surrounded by a lipoprotein envelope. Glycoprotein ‘spikes’ extend from the envelope, composed of hemolglutinin and fusion protein. There are important for attachment and penetration of an affected cell.

CDV is very similar to a number of other Morbilliviruses including the measles, rinderpest and phocine distember viruses. Therefore, many species are affected by Morbilliviruses, including humans. Species known to be susceptible to canine distemper infection are diverse and include such animals as pandas, coyotes, wolves, foxes, ferrets, mink, others, skunk, wolverine, badgers, cheetahs, lions, and of course the common dog. For more infomation see species affected. This list is by no means exhaustive. It is thought that the dogs are the principal reservoir host for the virus, and they are the source of infection for other wildlife.

The virus is very susceptible to heating and drying, and will be destroyed by temperatures that exceed 50 degrees for 30 minutes. CDV is better able to withstand colder temperatures and can survive at -65 degrees for at least 7 years (2). Disinfection with ether and chloroform, formalin solution, phenol and quaternary ammouniun compounds kills the virus; therefore a sanitary clinic is essential to prevent transmission.


Viral Characteristics
Clinical Signs
Transmission and Risk
Other Species
Treatment and Prognosis
Medical Dictionary