Canine Distemper Virus; Nearly Completely Preventable in Dogs

William Fullmer DVM By William Fullmer DVM, 11th Oct 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1ohn1551/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Pets>Dogs

Recent outbreaks of Canine Distemper virus across the United States have resulted in the euthanasia of numerous dogs and caused untold pain and suffering in affected animals. This fact is frustrating in that canine distemper is almost completely preventable in dogs with proper vaccination.

Canine distemper is a member of a family of viruses called Morbilliviruses.

Recent outbreaks of Canine Distemper virus across the United States have resulted in the euthanasia of numerous dogs1 and caused untold pain and suffering in affected animals. This fact is frustrating in that canine distemper is almost completely preventable in dogs with proper vaccination.

Canine distemper is a member of a family of viruses called Morbilliviruses that is of an ancient date and includes cattle plague and human measles2. Distemper virus affects a wide range of species including raccoons, ferrets, peccarys, leopards, tigers, wild canids and African Lions4. Unvaccinated dogs and ferrets are very susceptible and cause large scale epidemics and death in many species of wild animals.

The virus affects many body systems and patients can therefore exhibit many clinical signs, based on which systems are affected in a particular patient. There is usually a high fever, with a decreased appetite, then the patient may exhibit coughing, severe eye and nasal discharge, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle twitching, disorientation, and seizures5.

Cattle plague has been declared to be eradicated by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)2 and it is a very real possibility that measles may be eradicated in the future3. The primary reason cattle plague was eradicated was through an aggressive worldwide vaccination program. The efforts to eradicate measles also center on vaccination. The fact that cattle plague was eradicated and the possibility that measles could be eradicated by vaccination is evidence that this family of viruses is very preventable.

Even though there is no coordinated effort to eradicate canine distemper virus it is very effectively controlled with vaccination. It is very unfortunate that there are still dogs which suffer from this preventable disease. Vaccination is important as eradication would be very difficult with all of the wildlife species that can carry the virus. Most of the dogs in our area are vaccinated and I have personally never seen a case of canine distemper in eighteen years of clinical practice indicating to me the efficacy of the vaccine.

Currently there are many effective vaccines labeled for use in dogs and at least one labeled for ferrets. Many wildlife rehabilitators also vaccinate their raccoon patients for distemper although it is an off label use of the canine vaccine. We suggest vaccinating our canine patients at eight, twelve, and sixteen weeks of age in addition to a yearly booster. An alternative to vaccinating yearly is drawing blood and checking your dog’s immune response to distemper. You should consult your veterinarian for his or her specific recommendations. Ferrets should be vaccinated at eight and twelve weeks of age with a yearly booster. There currently no available test to check immune levels to the virus in Ferrets.

I see no good reason to leave any dog or ferret unvaccinated for distemper. It is a simple, safe, inexpensive and effective medical procedure which is supported by an overwhelming majority of the veterinary community. Vaccinating will prevent this devastating disease in almost all cases.

1. http://www.findavet.us/2010/03/distemper-outbreaks-have-pet-parents-worried/

2. Cattle Plague; Understanding the Disease Associated Content by William Ray Fullmer

3. Measles Eradication: Is It in Our Future? Walter A. Orenstein, MD, Peter M. Strebel, MD, Mark Papania, MD, Roland W. Sutter, MD, MPH&TM, William J. Bellini, PhD, and Stephen L. Cochi, MD

4. Canine distemper epizootic in lions, tigers, and leopards in North America J Vet Diagn Invest 6:277-288 (1994)

5. Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice

Tags

Canine, Canine Distemper, Central Nervous System, Distemper Virus, Dogs, Dogs Health, Respiratory Disorders, Viral Infection

Meet the author

author avatar William Fullmer DVM
Dr. Fullmer graduated from Washington State University with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. He also graduated from the University of Idaho with a bachelor's degree in Veterinary Sciences and f

Share this page

moderator Mark Gordon Brown moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know

Comments

author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
11th Oct 2011 (#)

Shared on facebook as a reminder for others to vaccinate their dogs.

Reply to this comment

author avatar William Fullmer DVM
11th Oct 2011 (#)

Thank you, this is a very important topic.

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Username
Can't login?
Password