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Distemper outbreak kills four puppies in Las Vegas, sickens more

The news

Four puppies with distemper have been euthanized at a veterinary clinic in Las Vegas. All were purchased from the same seller via Craigslist, and dozens of pet owners are coming forward sharing similar experiences.

IDEXX Insight

Canine distemper virus (CDV) is a serious disease that infects dogs, as well as wildlife, with a worldwide mortality rate second only to rabies. A constellation of multisystemic signs can be seen in the acute phase, including vomiting, diarrhea, fever, respiratory signs, and neurologic signs. Early signs may be difficult to differentiate from other infectious diseases. Chronic progressive neurologic signs are seen later in infection and may be delayed for months or years. Neurologic signs are generally not reversible and often fatal. Owners should be warned of the possibility of progressive disease even after apparent recovery from the acute phase of disease.

Distemper is highly contagious, and local wildlife can play a significant role in local distemper outbreaks. Early identification and isolation of infected animals is critical in management of outbreaks. Additionally, because of the guarded prognosis, a confident diagnosis is of utmost importance. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is the test of choice for diagnosis of distemper, because it’s a sensitive and specific test with a rapid turnaround time.  Effective vaccinations are available, so populations most at risk are puppies and unvaccinated animals. Although vaccinations play a very important role in prevention of this disease, they can also confound diagnosis in recently vaccinated dogs—a common scenario in the dogs most susceptible to distemper (puppies and shelter dogs). The modified live vaccine can result in a positive distemper PCR result in about 20% of dogs in the first few weeks following vaccination. A quantitative real-time PCR test developed by IDEXX provides a measure of the amount of virus present, making it possible to differentiate levels expected postvaccination from those seen with wild-type infection. The Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) Quant RealPCR™ Test is performed on respiratory swab specimens and is also included in the Canine Respiratory Disease RealPCR™ Panels. This revolutionary test makes accurate and timely diagnosis of canine distemper virus possible, even in a recently vaccinated dog. 

Alexis Seguin, DVM, MS, DACVIM

Alexis Seguin, DVM, MS, DACVIM

Dr. Seguin attended Cornell University as an undergraduate and then obtained her master’s degree and DVM at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1996 and 1998, respectively. She completed a rotating, small-animal medicine and surgery internship at North Carolina State University, followed by a 3-year residency in small-animal internal medicine at the University of Florida. She became board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 2002. She spent 2 years in private specialty practice, first in Mesa, Arizona, and then in Wisconsin. She joined IDEXX Laboratories as an Internal Medicine Consultant in 2004, and transitioned to the Medical Affairs team in 2015. Dr. Seguin lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband, two kids, three fish, a cardigan Welsh corgi, guinea pig, and two horses. She hopes to soon complete her family with the addition of a flock of chickens and guinea hens. Some of her favorite medical topics include infectious diseases, endocrinology, and immune-mediated diseases. Outside of work, she enjoys natural horsemanship, trail-riding, gardening, hiking/camping, and bird-watching.

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