If you follow the news, chances are you’ve heard a lot about measles. With measles outbreaks on the rise in the United States, people are understandably concerned about how this highly contagious disease could affect their families, including their dogs. this has many pet owners wondering: can dogs get measles?
Fortunately, the short answer is no. dogs cannot get measles or transmit the virus to humans. but they are susceptible to canine distemper, a virus in the same family as measles. If left untreated, canine distemper can be fatal or cause permanent neurological damage in dogs.
Reading: Measles in dogs
what is measles?
Measles is a virus that belongs to the family paramyxoviridae. In humans, this disease causes symptoms such as cough, runny nose, watery eyes, and skin rashes. Although measles spreads rapidly among unvaccinated humans, the CDC Centers for Disease Control reports that this virus does not affect any other animals. this means your dog cannot get the measles virus or give it to you.
what is canine distemper?
canine distemper virus, or cdv, belongs to the same viral family as the measles virus. Dogs affected by CDV show a wide range of symptoms, including:
- loss of appetite
- runny nose and eye
- vomiting and diarrhea
- stumbling or walking in circles
- head tilting
- weakness or paralysis
- abnormal jaw movements, sometimes called “chewing gum fits”
- hardening of the footpads
The disease is transmitted mainly by direct contact between dogs or by aerosolization of the virus by coughing and sneezing. Although CDV does not affect humans, many animal species are susceptible, including domestic dogs, foxes, wolves, ferrets, skunks, and bears.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for canine distemper, which is one of the reasons this disease is so serious. instead, treatment usually involves supportive care such as fluids, antibiotics, and symptom management until the illness has run its course. In many cases, distemper can be fatal or cause permanent neurological damage in surviving dogs.
Canine distemper is highly contagious, but can be prevented by vaccination. According to the American Animal Hospital Association’s vaccination guidelines, distemper is a core vaccine, meaning it’s strongly recommended for all puppies and adult dogs.
what about the canine measles vaccine?
If you’ve done your own research, you may come across references to a canine measles vaccine. Although dogs do not get measles, this vaccine was previously used to protect very young puppies against distemper. this was necessary because maternal antibodies (immunity passed from a vaccinated mother to her pups) would inactivate the cdv vaccine if given when the pups were still young, leaving them vulnerable to infection. Since adult dogs were not vaccinated against measles, the canine measles vaccine would provide a measure of protection for puppies until they were old enough for maternal antibodies to CDV to decline.
More recently, scientific advances have led to the development of vaccines that are better able to overcome maternal antibodies. Current CDV vaccines are generally given at 3-4 week intervals until puppies reach 16 weeks of age. this program ensures that the pup gains adequate immunity as maternal antibodies decline. Because modern CDV vaccines are more effective, the canine measles vaccine is now rarely used.
Although measles and distemper belong to the same viral family, measles does not pose a threat to dogs. Canine distemper, on the other hand, is a serious and highly contagious disease in dogs, which can be prevented through proper vaccination. If you have concerns about canine distemper, your veterinarian is your best resource to help keep your dog protected.
Read more: How to keep house smelling fresh with dogs