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Canine distemper In Cats

Canine distemper is a relatively new infectious disease of acute or chronic nature affecting house cats caused by Morbillivirus of family Paramyxoviridae. The disease is characterized by pneumonia with respiratory signs, gastrointestinal disorders with vomiting and diarrhea and encephalitis with nervous signs.

Incidence of CD

Morbidity and mortality due to canine distemper has been documented in House cats of different breeds. No breed is resistance to this dreadful disease.


The causative agent of canine distemper in felids is Morbillivirus (RNA group) belonging to family Paramyxoviridae that is identical to the one that naturally affects domestic dog. This virus is spherical in shape and replicates in the cytoplasm of host cells as other RNA viruses. The virus is readily susceptible to common disinfectants and can be inactivated at 37 degrees celcius.


Raccoons and dogs are considered as source of infection for canine distemper. The disease is directly transmitted by direct contact or through droplet infection. The virus is noticed in all excretions and secretions of infected animals.

Soon after ingestion of infected materials, the virus penetrates the oropharangeal mucosa and replicates in the epithelium from where it will be transported to the regional lymphnodes for further replication leading to viraemia and widespread dissemination of the virus. It is a self-limiting disease ending either in spontaneous recovery or fatal complication due to respiratory, digestive, urogenital disturbances and / or demyelinating encephalitis.

Clinical signs of Canine Distemper in Cats

Clinical signs in the canine distemper affected cats are basically similar to those seen in classical canine disease involving respiratory, digestive, urogenital and CNS resulting in anorexia, hemorrhages, diarrhea, Dyspnea, depression, myoclonus and ataxia with or without seizures or frequently ending fatally. Occasional spontaneous recovery has been recorded in different breeds of cats.

Diagnosis of Canine Distemper in Cats

The canine distemper symptoms in cats can easily confirmed by following diagnostic methods--

  • Clinical Signs and history.
  • Isolation of virus and identification
  • Immunofluorescent and immunohistochemical tests
  • Serum Neutralization Test
  • Demonstration of inclusion bodies characteristic of canine distemper

Specimens appropriate for lab diagnosis

  • Impression smears from conjunctiva for immunofluorescent and immunohistochemical tests
  • Buffy coat from peripheral blood
  • Tissues from brain, spinal cord, lungs, stomach, intestines and urinary bladder for histopathology

Prevention and Control

Since immunization is effective in controlling canine distemper, some of the vets administer canine distemper modified live vaccine to canids including felids at 8 weeks of age and a booster at 12-16 weeks of age. Annual revaccination is highly recommended.

Treatment of CD

Hyper immune serum and immunoglobulin-G is recommended in case of emergencies of canine distemper followed by course of antibiotic therapy to combat secondary bacterial infections.

Related Resources

Seroprevalence of Canine Distemper Virus in Cats

Diseases and Conditions of Mammals

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