A week ago, a social media post caught the attention of many dog parents. In that heart-breaking post a resident from the Dubai Hills community spoke about how her 16 months old, vaccinated puppy had contracted canine distemper and was fighting for life. The incident has obviously caused worry among pet parents. So, in view of the recent canine distemper outbreak in the UAE, we spoke with Dr. Sam Westhead, Veterinary Surgeon at Dubai-based Amity Veterinary Clinic to understand what needs to be done to prevent the spread.
Are you aware of the recent canine distemper outbreak in the UAE?
Dr. Sam Westhead: We’ve heard about the outbreak through social media and received inquiries from some concerned clients.
Would you know the reason for the recent outbreak?
Dr. Sam Westhead: The reason for this outbreak (not more than a couple of puppies, so far, I think) isn’t clear yet, but I suspect it’s due to a poor initial vaccination course. My advice is if you’ve bought a puppy from a shop or overseas breeder and the supplier claims they are fully vaccinated, still get a blood test done to confirm the antibody levels. A fresh course of vaccination may be needed if protection isn’t adequate. Also, get pups immunised as soon as possible, as the course starts at eight weeks of age.
Could you please tell us what is canine distemper? What signs should dog parents watch out for?
Dr. Sam Westhead: Canine distemper is a viral infection transmitted by close contact and airborne droplets as well as from mother to puppies. There’s no reliable treatment for this and signs start as a very mild cough with ocular and nasal discharge to severely ill pups with neurological problems.
Which dogs are most likely to get affected?
Dr. Sam Westhead: It generally affects poorly vaccinated or unvaccinated animals under four months of age. Its highly unlikely that older dogs would be affected. However, its not impossible. So, getting them vaccinated by a reputable vet is essential.
How can dog parents prevent the spread?
Dr. Sam Westhead: Before puppies are fully vaccinated, they should be isolated from other individuals and only let out if you’ve a private villa with garden. Or very briefly to let them relieve themselves in an area to which other dogs don’t have access. While I’d urge pet parents to not panic, the recent cases highlight the importance of vaccination by a reputable vet. Pet parents should also carefully consider where they buy puppies from.
Dubai day cares urge VacciCheck for dogs
Since several dogs in the UAE avail day care and boarding facilities, we spoke with some to understand what doggie day cares are doing to safeguard against canine distemper.
“We are in contact with many veterinary clinics here in the UAE, and we got to know that some cases have come up, wherein fully vaccinated dogs are affected. So, we are urging our pet parents to conduct VacciCheck, a blood test to determine the antibody levels against DHPPL [a combination vaccine of distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza and parvo], for their dogs. Until now, this test was mandatory for all dogs below two years old. But under the current situation we are recommending this test to all dog parents,” said Romi Banerjee, Owner of Romi’s Home Pet Nursery.
“Thankfully all our dogs are healthy, and we’d like to keep it that way. If 80% of dogs can be VacciChecked within the next couple of weeks, the outbreak will die down.”
Meanwhile, in a social media post Sean de la Harpe-Parker from My Second Home Dubai, also spoke in favour of VacciCheck “as a good practice.” He added, “Distemper is not a new virus as some suggest. It has been around for time immemorial. Vaccines (when the dogs develop antibodies) are effective at preventing this horrible disease…I very much doubt there is a new strain going around, or at least one that is resistant to the vaccines…”