Definition of Distemper
Canine distemper, also called Carre’s disease or hard pad disease, is a highly contagious and frequently fatal disease that primarily affects young domesticated and wild dogs between 2 and 6 months of age. It is especially life-threatening to unvaccinated puppies and wildlife. Distemper is caused by a virus that is closely related to the virus that causes measles. Most dogs are exposed to the canine distemper virus either by inhaling respiratory secretions from an infected animal or by coming into direct contact with an infected dog’s saliva, urine or feces. Once that happens, the virus reproduces in the dog’s respiratory tract and spreads in the blood to the lymph nodes and throughout the body. Infected dogs can develop a wide array of respiratory, gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms. Fortunately, vaccination is extremely effective at preventing distemper in dogs. Most routine puppy vaccine protocols include vaccination against distemper.