Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease spread from all body secretions and excretions (nose and eye discharge, vomit, diarrhea and urine). Distemper is also considered an airborne virus spread by coughing and sneezing, and also can be contracted from contaminated objects such as bowls or dishes.
Puppies and unvaccinated dogs are most at risk for this infection. The vaccine is considered very protective. Distemper is often a fatal disease and if the dog survives the distemper virus can cause permanent damage to the nervous system.
The good news is that the distemper vaccine is part of the “core” vaccines that we administer to our pets. Since this vaccine is so effective we rarely see this disease in our pet populations in this area, but as we become a global society and dogs are transported around the world dogs coming from areas that struggle more with this disease can introduce this virus to an unprotected population. There is also a wildlife reservoir of distemper in Nova Scotia and we see outbreaks from time to time in various parts of the province as skunks, racoons, fox and coyotes can also contract and spread this virus.
Infectious Canine Hepatitis
Hepatitis is a viral disease with young unvaccinated dogs most at risk. Signs of hepatitis include coughing and discharge from the nose and eyes, evidence of liver or kidney disease (including jaundice or yellowing of the skin, poor appetite and changes in eating and drinking behaviour). Infection with hepatitis can cause “blue eye” or corneal edema. Hepatitis is typically spread by contact with infected urine, vaccination is key to prevention as this condition is often fatal. Infectious canine hepatitis is not contagious to people. Hepatitis is part of the “core” vaccines that we administer to our pets.
Parainfluenza virus is a highly contagious virus responsible for causing an upper respiratory virus. This virus is part of the complex of viruses and bacteria responsible for “Kennel Cough” and is considered highly transmissible between dogs. Parainfluenza can cause inflammation in the nose, eyes and trachea. Young or unvaccinated dogs and dogs in high-density areas such as boarding kennels, groomers, dog parks or shelters are most at risk. Parainfluenza is part of the “core” vaccines that we administer to our pets.
Parvovirus is a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease, with young and unvaccinated dogs most at risk. Parvovirus is spread in contaminated feces, and is considered a hardy virus that is able to stay in the environment for a long time in soil which can expose many dogs to this serious disease. Unfortunately parvovirus is a common disease and we see outbreaks from time to time. Vaccination is considered protective for this disease and some breeds are considered more at risk (Rottweiller, Doberman Pincher and German Shepherd Dogs). Parvovirus is part of the “core” vaccines that we administer to our pets.
Rabies is not a mandatory vaccine in Nova Scotia but is considered a “core” vaccine for dogs. Rabies is spread through the saliva of infected animals, and is considered a “zoonotic” disease, which means we can catch Rabies from our pets (or infected wildlife) if they are infected. Rabies affects the brain or central nervous system it can cause changes in behaviour including shyness or aggression, drooling, fly snapping or facial twitching. There is no cure for Rabies and it is considered a fatal disease. Most rabies cases in Nova Scotia come from the bite of an infected bat. While not a common disease here, Nova Scotia Public Health recommends all pets that go outdoors be vaccinated for Rabies and to avoid contact with wild animals especially if they are acting strange.
Leptosporosis is a disease caused by a bacteria spread through the urine of infected animals. Wildlife is the common reservoir for this disease and can be contracted from slow moving or stagnant water that has been contaminated with urine (under birdfeeders frequented by racoons). Leptosporosis can cause flu like symptoms, jaundice or seizures, it can be difficult to diagnose, and can lead to liver and kidney failure. Leptosporosis is considered a “zoonotic” disease, which means we can become infected from the urine of our infected pets. There are a few cases of Leptosporosis detected every year in our area as there is increasing encroachment of urban areas on the habitat of wildlife including racoons, skunks and rodents.
Lyme disease is spread through a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi transmitted from the bite of an infected tick. It is the black legged or deer tick that is responsible for transmission of this bacteria. All areas of Nova Scotia are considered at risk and the region from Yarmouth to Halifax counties are considered high risk. Lyme disease can cause vague signs including fever, joint pain, kidney and heart issues and a small percentage (5%) of infected dogs can develop a serious often fatal complication called lyme nephropathy. Many infected dogs do not show any signs and test positive for exposure during screening.
Bordetella is the “Kennel Cough” vaccine and is for the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica. This bacteria is one of the components causing an upper respiratory infection often called “Kennel Cough”. This is considered very contagious and is not just for dogs that go to kennels. Any time there are multiple dogs in one area there is potential for this to spread (dog parks, shows, groomers, day care, puppy classes, common dog areas where an infected dog has been). It is spread from secretions during sneezing or coughing, or by direct contact with infected dogs. Often this starts as a dry hacking cough, runny eyes or nose, loss of appetite or difficulty breathing.