Pet owners, beware. Canine distemper, the most common and fatal disease in dogs, is on the rise in India, according to a paper in the latest issue of the Indian Journal of Biotechnology.
The study, designed to test the efficacy of available vaccines and the importance of annual vaccination, found that 70% of the 112 samples tested positive for canine distemper.
More alarming is the fact that the disease is prevalent among dogs between one and five years of age. Both male and female dogs are equally susceptible.
But for all its lethal implications, canine distemper is easily preventable as there is a vaccine. Given that the disease—paramyxovirus—is extremely contagious, and the tendency of the vaccine to lose its potency within a year, it is necessary to administer booster shots regularly.
Arraimugham Raja, a Delhi-based veterinarian, said most of his clients shirked on their pet’s shots. “Most of them are educated and well aware of canine distemper,” he said. “But as the disease is easily curable and not as high-profile as rabies, owners tend to delay in the shots.”
It’s the delay that can cause problems. Though no official data on the deaths by canine distemper are maintained, V.C. Nath of the Madras Veterinary College said not many deaths actually occur. “The virus dies at room temperatures, but proliferates with great potency at temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius. Thus, the onset of winter is a time when pet owners must be wary.”
Unfortunately, Raja doesn’t see more owners queueing up at this time.
While the researchers couldn’t be contacted, Dr K. R. Koundal, one of the journal’s editors and joint-director of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, said, “I haven’t reviewed the article, but the research papers are peer-reviewed and so the researchers’ findings must be credible.”