It’s suspected that ashipment of animals that a Canadian animal welfare organization rescued from a South Korean meat market last fall (in October 2018) brought the Asian-1 strain of Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) into Canada. One of the dogs in the shipment developed a cough and appeared lethargic two weeks after its arrival, and within ten days the dog had developed muscle twitches and seizures, and ultimately had to be euthanized. Tests were negative for canine influenza, but results were strongly positive for CDV, with a virus that was almost identical to the Asian-1.

A conclusive diagnosis was made by scientists at the Animal Health Diagnostic Center (ADHC) at Cornell UniversityThe virus proved to be linked to Korean H3N2 influenza strains that had been circulating in Asia for over a decade. Dr. Edward Dubovi, Director of the Virology Laboratory at AHDC, explained, “Well-meaning people are trying to save animals, but when you move animals, you move their infectious disease. He cautioned, “If this particular Asian-1 strain got out into the wildlife population, the it’s here forever, because you can’t get rid of it once it hits wildlife.” And should that occur, the new strain of distemper could take a terrible toll on our wildlife, and on unvaccinated canines.

If your dog is already immunized against the North American strain of CDV, you can relax, because an immunized dog is not at risk. However, the new virus could spread among unimmunized strays, and wildlife. CDV is highly contagious, and just as flus and colds are spread between humans, the disease – which first exhibits respiratory symptoms like coughing or pneumonia  travels between hosts through the aerosol spray emitted when dogs bark and cough, and through feces and urine.

In 2015 a canine influenza virus that could be traced back to dogs that had been rescued from Korean dog meat farms. Animal rescue organizations have been active for nearly a decade, working to save dogs from the dinner table. Rescued animalsentering the U.S. require only a rabies certificate.Even then, fake certificates available, for a price.

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture governs just the trade of livestock, and livestock products. Companion animals travel with their owners, with virtually no oversight. So it is a real challenge to keep new infectious organisms out of the country. Pet owners could petition rescue groups, and the federal government, to adopt better quarantine protocols and testing of the animals  transported into the U.S.A porous Southern Border and “a 50-state-free-for-all” also complicate veterinary disease control, according to Dr. Dubovi. “It’s a very unsatisfactory situation if you’re trying to control infectious diseases in our domestic cats and dogs.

Your best protection for your pet is to keep all inoculations up to date.