Dog - Can Dogs Catch Distemper from Seals?

What is seal distemper?

Seal distemper is a virus disease which sporadically affects the seal population around our coasts.

3221The signs in seals are similar to those in dogs with canine distemper. It affects primarily the respiratory and nervous systems. In seals it can result in fits and high mortality (death rate).

What causes it?

Phocine distemper virus (PDV). This is very similar to canine distemper virus (CDV).

Is this a new disease in seals?

PDV was first identified causing distemper-like signs with high mortality in European seals during an outbreak in 1988. At that time approximately 18,000 Common Seals, (Phoca vitulina) and 400 Grey Seals (Halichorus grypus) died as a result of the infection. Subsequently in 2002 there was a further major outbreak in the North Sea and around our shores. In the following years further cases have been confirmed.

When did the present outbreak occur?

The present outbreak was confirmed on 13th August 2002 when tests carried out on seals proved positive for PDV. As a result the government set up a £250,000 project, expected to last nine months, in order to find out more about this virus.

How is the virus spread?

Like canine distemper, seal distemper is highly contagious. It is transmitted by direct contact between seals and through the aerosol route as a result of coughing and sneezing. Work following the 2002 outbreak confirmed that affected seals try to find refuge on land where some will die of the disease.

Are these seals likely to be a danger to dogs exercising in the area?

If the dog is fully protected against canine distemper virus by vaccination this risk is diminished but nevertheless it is prudent not to allow dogs in close contact with any seals found on the beach.

If you are further concerned about the risks please contact us since we have local knowledge of the situation.

Used and/or modified with permission under license. ©Lifelearn, The Penguin House, Castle Riggs, Dunfermline FY11 8SG

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