Canine Distemper is a viral, worldwide disease that is highly contagious, despite the long existence of a highly effective vaccine. The virus can attack the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of infected animals, and can often be fatal even with significant treatment and supportive care.
Dogs are being tested using PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests. This method involves amplifying specific DNA codes that corresponds to the virus in question from samples taken from the animals using a swab of the conjunctiva (eye lid) and pharynx (upper respiratory tract). These tests are very sensitive and specific as they only amplify the DNA of the distemper virus and other respiratory pathogens that may be causing secondary infections. This test is also capable of differentiating between an active viral infection causing disease and the immune response caused by the distemper vaccine these animals receive upon intake into the shelter system.
Possible results include the following:
- CDV Wildtype Infection (High positive): The canine distemper virus (CDV) viral load is high, well above levels seen with vaccine interference. The positive CDV PCR result is most likely caused by a wildtype strain and indicates infection.
- Indeterminate: Canine Distemper virus (CDV) viral load is indeterminate – above levels seen with vaccine interference, but below the levels typically seen with wild type infection.
- Low CDV Positive: Canine distemper virus (CDV) viral load is low, which is possible with early infection, resolving infection, or vaccine interference if the dog has been vaccinated with in the last 2 weeks. If the dog hasn’t been vaccinated this is consistent with very early or the recovery phases of infection.
Guidelines we are following to control outbreak:
These guidelines have been developed in consultation with other shelters in the central Texas area that have dealt with this situation and two local private practice veterinarians.