Canis ISSN: 2398-2942

Distemper disease

Synonym(s): Paramyxo virus disease

Contributor(s): Stephen Barr, Bryn Tennant

Introduction

  • Cause: canine distemper virus (CDV) Canine distemper virus.
  • Still a problem in unvaccinated dogs, eg in inner city areas.
  • Disease usually occurs in dogs less than 1 year of age.
  • Signs: infection may be mild or generalized and severe.
  • 50% of infections are subclinical/mild.
  • Treatment: symptomatic - control through use of live attenuated vaccines.
  • Prognosis: guarded, although animals may recover, disease often has residual effects.
Print off the owner factsheet on Distemper disease Distemper disease to give to your client.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

  • Morbillivirus (Family Paramyxoviridae) Canine distemper virus.
  • Large RNA virus (150-250 nm).
  • Relatively labile; destroyed by heat, drying, detergents, solvents, disinfectants.
  • Survives longer in cold (few weeks at just above freezing).
  • Dogs, ferrets, mink and badgers; may also infect big cats.
  • One antigenic type, though strains vary in virulence due to tissue tropism.

Predisposing factors

General

  • Lack of vaccination.
  • Close contact between dogs.

Specific

  • Lack of vaccination.

Pathophysiology

  • Infection via aerosol inhalation → primary replication in upper respiratory tract epithelium/tonsil → primary pyrexia → virus taken up by macrophages and lymphocytes → dissemination → leucopenia and lymphadenitis → secondary pyrexia.
  • Outcome of infection depends on interaction of virus with lymphoid tissue:
    Either Some develop immunity → mild inappetence, pyrexia → recovery with a small percentage later → encephalitis.
    Or Some dogs → immunosuppression from viral replication in lymphoid tissue → secondary infections, eg Bordetella bronchiseptica Bordetella bronchiseptica , toxoplasmosis Toxoplasmosis , mycoplasmosis, coccidiosis Coccidiosis , viral enteritides Parvovirus disease associated with CPV-2.
  • Transmission of virus in lymphocytes (varies with tissue tropism of virus strain):
    • Respiratory epithelium, lung macrophages.
    • Epithelium and lymphoid tissue of small intestine.
    • Neurones → demyelination, perivascular cuffing, gliosis.
    • Squamous epithelium of nares and footpads.
    • Transplacental infection of fetuses.

Timecourse

  • Viremia within 2 days of infection.
  • Epithelial damage in a few weeks.
  • Incubation period 14-18 days for acute distemper.
  • Virus in brain in 8-14 days, but signs several weeks later.
  • Virus may persist in brain for months → delayed onset encephalitis.

Epidemiology

  • Recovered animals have life-long immunity.
  • Control by vaccination.
  • Aerosol transmission → inhalation.
  • Some puppies may be susceptible at 6 weeks old, due to early decline of maternal antibody.
  • Virulence and tissue tropism varies between strains.
  • Immunosuppression by CDV leads to secondary infection.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Coyne M J (2000) Seroconversion of puppies to canine parvovirus and canine distemper virus - a comparison of two combination vaccines. JAAHA 36 (2), 137-142 PubMed.
  • McCaw D, Thompson M et al (1998) Serum distemper virus and parvovirus antibody titres amongst dogs brought to a veterinary hospital for revaccination. JAVMA 213 (1), 72-75 VetMedResource.
  • Greene C E (1994) Diagnosis, therapy and prevention of common infectious diseases in the dog. Vet Q 16 (Suppl 1), 2S-5S PubMed.
  • Shell L G (1990) Canine distemper. Comp Cont Ed Prac Vet 12 (2), 173-179 VetMedResource.
  • Thornburg L P (1988) A study of canine hepatobiliary diseases Part 6 - infectious hepatopathies. Comp Anim Pract 2 (9), 13-20 VetMedResource.

Other sources of information

  • Swango L J (1995) Canine viral diseases. In: Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Eds: S J Ettinger & E C Feldman. 4th edn. Philadelphia: W B Saunders. p 398.


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