What is Canine Distemper?
Canine distemper is a viral respiratory disease that can progress to cause brain damage. Fortunately, many pets infected with distemper do not become seriously ill, but when they do become ill, about half will die. Puppies or older dogs with weak immune systems usually die from distemper.
The distemper virus is similar to the human measles virus. The virus is successful because it suppresses the immune system and actually multiples within the immune system as it spreads throughout the body.
Distemper is highly contagious and spreads as dogs breathe or cough on each other (aerosol infection). It also spreads through discharge from the eyes and nose, and even from food and water that has been contaminated. Fortunately, cleaning with household detergents can easily kill the virus. This is unlike parvovirus that persists in the environment unless killed with bleach or strong chemicals.