A New Strain of Canine Distemper … and We May Have an Outbreak!

A New Strain of Canine Distemper … and We May Have an Outbreak!

Canine Distemper - 1st photoCanine distemper is a disease that effects our canine companions (and other wildlife, like racoons, and foxes) and is caused by viruses that attack the immune system. There have been many historic outbreaks of this disease in the last 30 years and is most often fatal, especially if contracted by a puppy or senior dog. Even if a dog survives this virus, they are typically left with permanent damage. In North America, two different strains of canine distemper were responsible for killing large populations of dogs. Incredibly, modern vaccines have been able to keep the viruses relatively controlled. Recently, a young dog from South Korea was imported into Canada and was found to have a new strain of canine distemper. This Asian strain has never previously been reported in North America, but this new, foreign strain is definitely cause for concern. For those dogs that don’t receive regular vaccinations, especially puppies, seniors, and immunocompromised dogs are at the highest risk.

Vial with punctured syringe close up with blue background

Further, this story sheds light on some of the issues facing Canada as more foreign animals are brought from different countries. For most countries, including Canada, proof of a valid rabies vaccine is all that’s required to import animals. Unfortunately, other viruses and parasites aren’t being adequately screened, thus causing more complicated diseases. Please see our article on Echinococcus multilocularis, as this is a good example of a foreign parasite that is now well-established in southern Ontario. Also, as we reported last year, heartworm-positive cases have risen astronomically since 2012 and experts believe this increase to be in part because of the large number of dogs being quickly adopted after the Hurricane Katrina disaster. So what does this new strain of canine distemper mean for our dogs? Fortunately, for our canine companions that receive frequent vaccinations, this new virus probably won’t have much of an effect. Unfortunately, because this form of distemper also infects other wildlife, we may have massive death counts of foxes, raccoons, skunks, and wolves. If you’re concerned about your pet, please contact us today!

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