Our word distemper started out as the Middle English word distemperen, which meant to upset the balance of humors. Messing up the humors was a bad thing, because people back in those days thought that the body was made up of several different humors, and that if you were going to have good health, they all had to get along nicely with each other. But anyway, the Middle English version of the word distemper came from the Old French word destemprer, which meant to disturb. And this French word came from a Vulgar Latin word, distemperare, which described something that didn't mix properly.
In the world of doggy diseases, distemper is a Really Big Deal, because it is so contagious and deadly. Other animals besides dogs can get canine distemper, and some of these animals are: raccoons, ferrets, African wild dogs, lions, and seals. Cats usually don't get it, but they have their own distemper-like disease to deal with, which is called feline leukemia.
|A picture of paramyxovirus.|
Don't be fooled by the pretty colors--
this is mean and nasty stuff!
A French veterinarian named Henri Carré first described a case of distemper in 1905. The vaccine was developed in 1950, but many dogs don't get vaccinated, and that's how distemper spreads among dogs and also to wildlife.
There are lots of ways to get distemper. You can get it very easily from an infected animal by coming into contact with their pee, poop, saliva, or the gunky stuff that comes out of their noses or eyes. You can also get it by breathing in little droplets that fly into the air when sick animals cough or sneeze.
Dogs who have neurological symptoms probably won't survive, but even if they do, they may have a permanent tic. Later on, they might also have seizures, and they might go blind. Puppies could end up with teeth that don't have all their enamel. This is because the virus kills the cells that make the enamel. So if there is no enamel to protect they teeth, they will end up rotting.
Anyway, the very best thing to do about distemper is to GET VACCINATED! I know those needles are sharp and it doesn't feel good when somebody sticks one in you, but I'm pretty sure it would feel much worse to have distemper!