Recently, there have been reported cases of Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) in our area. Here’s what you need to know about this potentially fatal virus.
HOW IT SPREADS:
· Canine distemper is a highly contagious virus that can affect the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and nervous system of dogs. In our area, it can also affect foxes, coyotes, ferrets, weasel, skunk and raccoon.
· Transmission is through contact with the secretions and excretions of infected animals (nasal discharge, urine, saliva). The primary route of infection is through inhalation of the virus.
· Infection generally starts in the upper respiratory tract and often initially presents with symptoms of a “cold” or “kennel cough”. It then spreads through the lymph nodes to other organs, including the nervous system, where it can cause seizures and tremors.
· High Fever (generally 103-105 degrees)
· Nasal discharge and conjunctivitis
· Vomiting and diarrhea
· Muscle twitches
DIAGNOSIS AND WHO IS AT RISK
· Dogs that have been properly vaccinated, and have mounted an appropriate immune response can generally fight off the infection. However, dogs with compromised or underdeveloped immune systems (unvaccinated or partially vaccinated puppies, sick dogs, and elderly dogs) are considered most at risk.
· While diagnostic tests are available for distemper, there is no test available that is 100% accurate. Diagnosis is based on a combination of symptoms, history of exposure, and results of a complete blood count, chest x-ray, and viral testing.
· The symptoms of the disease may initially appear similar to kennel cough (bordetella), bronchitis, pneumonia, influenza, parvo, intestinal infections, and other diseases. Typically with CDV, either the symptoms continue to worsen in the face of treatment, OR, the dog can appear to recover from the initial infection and then develop neurologic signs days to years later.
· There is no effective antiviral treatment for CDV.
· Treatment is targeted at alleviating symptoms, depending on the organs affected, and may include antibiotics for pneumonia, intravenous fluids, anticonvulsants and antiemetics.
· Dogs may initially seem to recover from respiratory or intestinal signs, but then develop neurologic signs. This is consistent with CDV. Some dogs may not develop neurologic signs until later in life, a condition commonly called “old dog encephalitis”.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
· Vaccination is highly effective against CDV. It cannot be stressed enough the importance of having your puppy properly vaccinated with the entire series of puppy vaccines. Following the puppy vaccines, speak with your veterinarian about the most appropriate vaccine schedule for your adult dog.
· Avoid contact with dogs you do not know, especially with unvaccinated puppies or elderly or infirmed dogs
· Alert your veterinarian if your dog develops any of the symptoms listed above, or has had contact with an unknown dog or a dog suspected of having CDV.
· CDV does not live long in the environment, and is effectively killed by a dilute 1:10 solution of bleach in water. Keep your dog’s environment clean. If you have had any contact with an affected dog, disinfect your shoes, wash your clothing, and thoroughly wash your hands before contacting your dog.
· Contact your veterinarian if you have questions concerning CDV and vaccination.