Canine distemper virus (CDV) is a multi-host pathogen that can cause significant mortality in domestic, wild terrestrial and marine mammals. It is a major conservation threat in some endangered species. Infection can result in severe respiratory disease and fatal encephalitis. Diagnosis and disease monitoring in wildlife, and differentiation of CDV from rabies (a life-threatening zoonotic disease that can produce similar neurologic signs), would benefit from the availability of a portable, point-of-care (POC) diagnostic test. We therefore developed a quantitative RT-PCR assay for CDV using shelf-stable, lyophilized reagents and target-specific primers and probes for use with the handheld Biomeme two3™ qPCR thermocycler. Biomeme"s extraction methodology, lyophilized reagents, and thermocycler were compared to our standard laboratory-based methods to assess sensitivity, efficiency and overall test performance. Results using a positive control plasmid for CDV showed comparable sensitivity (detection of 50 copies) and PCR efficiency between the two platforms, and CDV detection was similar between platforms when tested using a modified live CDV vaccine. Significantly higher Ct values (average Ct = 5.1 cycles) were observed using the Biomeme platform on known CDV positive animal samples. CDV detection using the Biomeme platform was similar in 25 of 26 samples from suspect CDV cases when compared to standard virology laboratory testing. One false positive was observed that was negative upon retest. The Biomeme methodology can be adapted for detection of specific targets, and this portable technology saves time by eliminating the need for local or international sample transport for laboratory-based diagnostics. However, results of our testing suggest that decreased diagnostic sensitivity (higher Ct values) relative to laboratory-based methods was observed using animal samples, so careful validation and optimization are essential. Portable qPCR platforms can empower biologists and wildlife health professionals in remote and low-resource settings, which will greatly improve our understanding of CDV disease ecology and associated conservation threats in wildlife.