Canine Distemper

Canine Distemper Virus, CDV

Changed on: 13.06.2019
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Staupe beim Fuchs
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Staupe beim Fuchs

The canine distemper virus (pathogen of the Carre disease, CDV) is a member of the Paramyxoviridae family (Genus: Morbillivirus) and is closely related to the human measles virus. Despite the relationship, the disease is harmless to human health.

The canine distemper virus does not only occur in dogs, but also in carnivores living in the wild, such as foxes, martens, badgers, skunks, weasels, racoons and otters. An increase in canine distemper infections, in particular in the red fox population, has also been observed in Austria in recent years.

Staupe beim Fuchs
caption
Staupe beim Fuchs

The canine distemper virus (pathogen of the Carre disease, CDV) is a member of the Paramyxoviridae family (Genus: Morbillivirus) and is closely related to the human measles virus. Despite the relationship, the disease is harmless to human health.

The canine distemper virus does not only occur in dogs, but also in carnivores living in the wild, such as foxes, martens, badgers, skunks, weasels, racoons and otters. An increase in canine distemper infections, in particular in the red fox population, has also been observed in Austria in recent years.

Incidence

The canine distemper virus is found all over the world. Four cases of dogs displaying neurological symptoms were described in Spain in 2014. Three of the dogs had been vaccinated against canine distemper on an annual basis; the fourth animal had received its last shot four years previously. Apparently, the three dogs were very weak in building up antibodies and, thus, were protected insufficiently from a field infection. A report of CDV infections in wild canines came from a fur farm in Denmark. A CDV outbreak in raccoons in urban areas was reported in Germany in 2013.

An increase in canine distemper infections in the red fox population could be observed in Austria in recent years. The animals affected become less shy towards humans and often display deteriorating motor skills, an important differential diagnosis to rabies.

Increased trade with puppies with Eastern European countries heightens the risk of importing the disease. Illegal animal imports to or through Austria are a long-term trauma for the often too young and inadequately inoculated and socialised puppies. There were recent reports of a CDV outbreak in the Swiss dog population, caused by the import of puppies from Hungary.
A total of 51 animals were tested for canine distemper at the Veterinarian Institutes of AGES between 01.01.2014 and 30.09.2015. A diagnosis could be given in 34 cases using immunohistochemical examinations for canine distemper antigens. The animals that tested positive were 27 foxes, three dogs, two martens, one badger and one ferret. Some provinces reported locally accumulated cases of canine distemper -- e.g. in Upper Austria (Gmunden, Kirchdorf).

Canine distemper was diagnosed in three dogs, two foxes and one ferret in Tyrol within one month in summer 2015. The clinical symptoms in one of the dogs were rhinitis, pneumonia, seizures and fever. The animal showed no improvement and died, despite treatment. The case history showed that the animal had come from an animal shelter in Eastern Europe.

Transmission

The disease is transmitted via saliva, nose and eye secretions, faeces and the urine of sick animals or clinically healthy shedding animals. The transmission occurs predominantly via direct contact, but also indirectly via the consumption of infected food or water. In general, young dogs are more susceptible than older dogs. Dogs aged four to six months are the most susceptible.

Symptoms

There are different forms depending on the organs affected. In most cases, there is a systemic infection that goes hand in hand with gastrointestinal and/or respirational symptoms at the beginning and, subsequently, develops into a neurological condition.

The incubation period for dogs is between 3 and 7 days. At first, the virus proliferates in the throat and the bronchial lymph nodes. Then, it invades the bone marrow, lymphatic and nervous tissue. Various symptoms, such as diarrhoea, vomiting, coughing, laboured breathing (as a result of a primary interstitial pneumonia), runny nose and conjunctivitis can be observed, depending on the organs affected. Additionally, there can be a hardening of the epithelial cells of the nose and foot pads (hard pad disease). High fever and lethargy often accompany these symptoms.

Canine distemper infections can progress at different levels of severity in dogs, depending on the animal’s immune status. Should the nervous system be infected, the animal will show signs of a brain condition and its survival chances are very low or it might suffer permanent nerve damage (tics).

Prevention

The obligatory inoculation of hunting and shepherd dogs assists with controlling this contagious viral disease. It is important to have dogs vaccinated consistently already at an early age and follow-up this core vaccination appropriately. This can help almost fully eliminate the infection risk for susceptible domestic dogs.

The recent distemper cases in dogs and wild animals in western Austria underscore the significance of the prophylactic immunisation of domestic animals.

Detailed information in Karl Schöpf, Judit Lazar, Hubert Weinberger (2015): Staupe – ist die Infektionskrankheit tatsächlich im Vormarsch? Vet-Journal (Kleintierpraxis) 12:3-7.

 

 

Diagnostics

The canine distemper virus can be detected in epithelial cells of various organs, nervous cells and lymphocytes, for instance. It can be detected in the form of intracellular inclusions or nuclear inclusions in the histological specimen of organs using haematoxylin eosin staining or more sensitive via an immunohistochemical examination.

A tentative diagnosis is usually issued for domestic animals and pets based on the clinical symptoms. Full clarification is carried out using a swab (paryngeal, conjunctival swab) and further DNA (PCR) analysis at the laboratory.

Test Laboratory: Untersuchungslabor:

Institute for Veterinary Disease Control Mödling

 

 

Literature

Rentería-Solís Z., Förster C., Aue A., Wittstatt U., Wibbelt G., König M. (2014): Canine distemper outbreak in raccoons suggests pathogen interspecies transmission amongst alien and native carnivores in urban areas from Germany; Vet Micriobiol. 174(1-2); 50-59.

Di Sabation D., Savini G., Lorusso A. (2015): Canine distemper and endangered wildlife: Is it time for mandatory vaccination of dogs? Vaccine June 2015; http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2015.05.087

Galán A., Gamito A., Carletti B., Guisado A., Martín des las Mulas J., Pérez J, Martín E. (2014): Uncommon acute neurologic presentation of canine distemper in 4 adult dogs; Can Vet J 55; 373-378.

Schöpf K., Lazar J., Weinberger H. (2015): Staupe – ist die Infektionskrankheit
tatsächlich im Vormarsch? Vet-Journal (Kleintierpraxis) 12:3-7.

Trebbien R., Chriel M., Struve T., Hjulsager C., Larsen G., Larsen L. (2014): Wildlife Reservoirs of Canine Distemper Virus Resulted in a Major Outbreak in Danish Farmed Mink (Neovion vison); PLOS ONE 9(1); e85598.

Willi B., Spiri AM., Meli ML., Grimm F., Riond B., Bley T., Jordi R., Dennler M., Hofmann-Lehmann R. (2015): Clinical and molecular investigation of a canine distemper outbreak and vector-borne infections in a group of rescue dogs imported from Hungary to Switzerland; BMC Vet Res. 11(1); 154.

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