An upsurge of canine distemper was recognized at the beginning of 1991 in the urban dog population of the Copenhagen area. The outbreak had the characteristics of a virulent morbillivirus introduction in a partly immune population, where the disease primarily was manifested in young individuals. Testing of single serum samples for the presence of canine distemper virus (CDV) IgM antibodies using an IgM ELISA confirmed current and recent CDV infections in an urban dog population, where the use of attenuated CDV vaccines was widespread. In 49 out of 66 sera from clinical cases suspected of canine distemper we detected CDV IgM antibodies, as compared to the detection of viral antigen by indirect immunofluorescence in 27 of 65 specimens of conjunctival cells. The antigenic make-up of isolates from acute and subacute clinical cases was investigated with a panel of 51 monoclonal antibodies directed against CDV and the related phocine distemper virus. The isolates exhibited an homogenous reaction pattern and shared overall antigenic characteristics of the CDV prototype. The majority of cases were diagnosed among unvaccinated dogs and individuals with unknown or obscure vaccination record. However, severe clinical cases were also diagnosed in vaccinated individuals.