Dog tests positive for canine distemper in Wadena County

A number of upper respiratory cases among dogs have been seen this winter in the Wadena area and dog owners are reminded that many of these diseases can be prevented through vaccinations.

A number of upper respiratory cases among dogs have been seen this winter in the Wadena area and dog owners are reminded that many of these diseases can be prevented through vaccinations.

"Winter months are an opportune time for contagious diseases to disseminate through the population of our canine companions," said Dr. Christine Krell, DVM. "Wadena County and the surrounding regions are no exception this year. At Paws & Prairie Animal Clinic, we have seen an increasing number of upper respiratory cases this season.

In discussions with other veterinarians in the region, it appears that this is not an isolated occurrence, she added.

Recently, a young dog tested positive for canine distemper in Wadena County.

"Given the highly contagious nature and the severity of this disease in unvaccinated or inadequately vaccinated dogs, it is important that we share information regarding Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC)," Krell said.


She provided information about CIRDC, how it is transmitted, the clinical signs (symptoms) to monitor, when to visit a veterinarian, possible treatments and prevention.

Several canine diseases are included under the title of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex, including viral and bacterial diseases: Canine Distemper Virus, Canine Adenovirus, Canine Influenza, Canine Parainfluenza, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Mycoplasma cynos., Streptococcus equi subsp. Zooepidemicus.

Kennel Cough is a common term referring to a single pathogen (disease causing microorganism) known as Bordetella bronchiseptica. However, without diagnostic testing it is difficult to confirm the true cause of illness, Krell said.

Transmission: Dog-to-dog through oronasal contact or via contact with secretions (eyes, nose, mouth, urine, etc.)

Symptoms: Clinical signs usually develop one to three days post-exposure, though up to 10 days is possible. Coughing, tracheal sensitivity that results in coughing, hoarse or high pitched honking, nasal discharge, fever (>102.5F), vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, ocular discharge (green/yellow), retching or hacking cough with gagging. With certain pathogens, neurological changes can be seen including but not limited to circling, staggering, tremors and seizures.

Diagnosis: Evaluation by a veterinarian is necessary and specific diagnostic testing may be recommended based on the dog's clinical indicators and exam findings. Certain tests to identify specific pathogens must be sent to diagnostic laboratories off site.

Treatment: In the event of illness, symptomatic and empirical therapies may be recommended based on the veterinarian's assessment of the patient. Treatments may include fluid support, antibiotics, antitussives, or other medications based on the signs of illness. Viral disease will not be shortened by use of antibiotics. Not all bacterial infections will respond to the same medication, so keeping the veterinarian informed to response or lack of improvement is important.

Prognosis: Generally good, majority patients will resolve with appropriate treatment in 1-2 weeks, though this varies based on the inciting pathogen(s) causing the illness and response to therapies. Rarely, dogs may suffer from a chronic cough for several weeks which may indicate continued medical management.


Prevention: Vaccines are very effective at preventing and reducing the incidence of specific CIRDC diseases (Canine Distemper, Adenovirus, Parainfluenza, Influenza and Bordetella).

Preventing exposure to dogs exhibiting signs of CIRDC is key, Krell said. Vaccination is proven to prevent symptoms in most situations. However, in some cases if disease is contracted even in a previously vaccinated animal the duration of illness is typically shorted and severity is lessened significantly.

Contact the staff at either Paws & Prairie Animal Clinic at (218) 631-5826 or visit the website of the Wadena County Humane Society ( ) for information regarding CIRDC.

Source: "Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex," Annette Litster, BVSc, PhD, FACVSc (Feline Medicine), MMedSci (Clinical Epidemiology), Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference 2015

Canine Distemper, American Veterinary Medical Association.

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