Epidemiology and clinical presentation of canine distemper disease in dogs and ferrets in Australia, 2006–2014

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To determine the status and distribution of distemper in Australian dogs and ferrets.


Retrospective case series.


Cases were identified via a national voluntary disease reporting system, veterinarian groups and a national laboratory database. The geographic distribution, seasonal distribution, signalment and clinical presentation of cases were described using maps and frequency distributions.


A total of 48 individually affected dogs and ferrets in 27 case groups were identified, including eight confirmed case groups (> one individual). Confirmed cases were more common in summer and on the central coast of New South Wales and southern Victoria, and occurred exclusively in young, unvaccinated dogs. For dogs there was no obvious sex predilection. A mortality rate of 100% in ferrets and up to 77% in dogs was estimated. Neurological, gastrointestinal and respiratory were the most commonly reported systems affected in dogs and ferrets. There was no evidence that any large, unreported outbreaks occurred during the study period.


Continuation of vaccination against canine distemper virus is justified within Australia, particularly for younger dogs. Veterinarians should continue to consider distemper in their differential diagnosis of cases with neurological, gastrointestinal and respiratory presentation.

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