In response to rumors about new, especially virulent strains of canine distemper virus circulating in the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has issued a statement that should be somewhat reassuring to dog owners. The AVMA consulted with two experts, Dr. Ed Dubovi (from Cornell) and Dr. Ron Schultz (from the University of Wisconsin), and has determined the following:
- There is no data to back up claims that the disease is on the rise on a national level, but there have been many outbreaks of distemper covered in the local news media.
- Genetic studies of the canine distemper viruses in the U.S. may show strains that were previously undetected here, but it’s almost impossible to determine if these strains are newly arrived or just newly detected because of improvements in testing. In addition, minor genetic changes often do not affect the antigenicity of the virus and have no impact on the efficacy of currently available vaccines.
- The currently available distemper vaccines are highly effective and will protect dogs against all currently circulating strains of canine distemper virus.
- The real issue is that there are unvaccinated (or inadequately vaccinated) and unprotected pets at high risk of developing a very deadly, yet preventable, disease.
- Dog owners are strongly urged to consult with their veterinarians regarding vaccination of their dog against distemper and other common diseases including adenovirus, parvovirus and rabies.
Keeping your dog up to date on preventive care, including canine vaccines, is one of the best ways to promote pet health and reduce veterinary costs.