Concern over canine distemper

HAZYVIEW – Dr Jana Boshoff of White River Animal Clinic, who works in Hazyview every Tuesday and Thursday, warned that if an animal contracts distemper, the chances of survival are less than zero. “There is no cure for distemper and it is the responsibility of the owner to have dogs vaccinated,” Boshoff said.

She added that canine distemper is a contagious and serious viral illness with no known cure. The disease commonly affects domestic dogs and can also spill over to wildlife such as the African wild dogs, hyenas, lions and jackals. Last year the Kruger National Park (KNP) lost a pack of African wild dogs, known as the Lower Sabie pack, to this disease.

The virus often circulates in wildlife without clinical signs or mortalities, as has been the case in the KNP for many years. “The long-term solution to the problem is frequent vaccination of domestic dogs around conservation areas and we advise the public, especially those in local communities bordering the park, to stick to routine vaccinations as this assists us as well,” Dr Markus Hofmeyr, general manager of veterinary wildlife services, recently told Hazyview Herald.

ALSO READ: Entire pack of wild dogs lost to Canine Distemper

The virus, which is spread through the air and by direct or indirect (utensils, bedding) contact with an infected animal, initially attacks a dog’s tonsils and lymph nodes and replicates itself there for about one week.

It then attacks the respiratory, urogenital, gastrointestinal and nervous systems.

In the initial stages of canine distemper the major symptoms include high fever, reddened eyes and a watery discharge from the nose and eyes. An infected dog will become lethargic and tired, and will usually become anorexic.

Persistent coughing, vomiting, and diarrhoea may also occur. In the later stages the virus starts attacking the other systems, particularly the nervous. The brain and spinal cord are affected and the dog may start having fits, seizures, paralysis, and attacks of hysteria.

ALSO READ: Vital KNP vaccination project for wild dogs well on its way

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Stefan de Villiers
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