Pseudorabies in dogs

Pseudorabies in dogs

Pseudorabies, also known as Aujeszky's disease, is a virus disease primarily found in swine. It can however spread to many other mammals, including dogs where it can cause symptoms similar to those caused by true rabies. The Pseudorabies virus (PRV) is endemic in most parts of the world and was first described in 1813. The scientific name for the virus is porcine herpesvirus 1. When the disease manifest in cattle it is called “Mad Itch”.

Pseudorabies background

The first described instances of what was probably Pseudorabies dates back to 1813 when it infected cattles in the United States. The cattle became extremely itchy and the disease was referred to as Mad Itch. The virus was isolated from a dog, a cat and an ox in 1913 by a Hungarian veterinarian named Aládar Aujeszky. Aujeszky managed to show that the same virus was found in all three animals, and that is also cause the same disease in rabbits and swine. Due to his efforts, Pseudorabies is also known as Aujeszky's disease.

Pseudorabies transmission

Infected swines will extract the virus in saliva and nasal secretions and the virus will spread to other animals via oral or nasal contact. It is also possible for PRV to spread through tiny drops that travel through the air or by surviving on various surfaces, e.g. transport cages used by many different animals without being disinfected. If the air is humid, the Pseudorabies virus can stay alive for up to seven hours and drift several kilometres with the wind. This virus is also known to survive for seven hours in water and up to two days in soil, grass and faeces. It can live up to three days in food and four days in straw bedding.

Another problem with this virus is that is has so many secondary hosts. A secondary host is a host that becomes infected directly from swine, by eating infected uncooked pork, or by having contact with other secondary hosts. Dogs, cats, horses, cattle, and rats can all function as secondary hosts. There are no reports of humans becoming secondary hosts.

Pseudorabies diagnosis and prevention

Pseudorabies can be diagnosed through an Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay Test (an ELSA test). In order to prevent the disease, a vaccine can be administered, but vaccinating dogs is not very common. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, extensive eradication programs have been launched to combat Pseudorabies. By 2004, the commercial swine population in the United States could be declared free of the disease, but Pseudorabies is still occurring in feral pigs. 

Pseudorabies symptoms in dogs and other animals

Pseudorabies is very dangerous for the secondary hosts, including dogs, and they typically die within 2-3 days. When a dog becomes infected the first symptom is usually intense itching and howling, which is then followed by neurological malfunctions (including jaw and pharyngeal paralysis) and eventually death. When a cat is infected it will normally die before even having time to develop any symptoms.

Swine are much more resilient towards Pseudorabies than the secondary hosts. Piglets less than one month of age usually dies if they become infected, but if the pig is 1-6 months of age the risk of dying is less than 10 percent. In swine, Pseudorabies manifest in the form of sneezes, coughs, depressions, exess salivation, constipation, ataxia, seizures and circling. It can also lead to miscarriages.

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