Dogs die of rare disease in south-west France: vaccination advised

Some animal shelters have been forced to close temporarily. Health authorities say they are not unduly concerned

Vaccinations against canine distemper (Carré) can be requested from your local vet
Published Last updated

Dog owners in south-west France have been urged by local charities to get their pets vaccinated against Carré (canine distemper) after a spike in cases.

Several dogs have needed to be put down after catching the virus, which has a preventative vaccination but no known cure.

Symptoms include conjunctivitis, neurological problems, blindness, fever, pimples, apathy towards food and play, but largely depend on the stage of the illness. It mostly affects younger dogs.

However, the Gironde direction de la protection des populations (DDPP) says the rise in cases has not been ‘explosive’ and pet owners should not unduly worry.

The disease, often considered the canine version of measles, cannot be caught by humans, but is easily transmissible by air and touch between dogs.

Read more: A third hunting dog dies of ‘false rabies’ in France: call for caution

Refuges face temporary closure

The virus was assumed to be all but wiped out in France at the turn of the century, however it has steadily been making a comeback, although it still remains rare.

Some animal refuges in the south-west, including an SPA shelter Perigueux were forced to shut their doors recently after outbreaks of the virus, with infections spreading between dogs.

In Toulouse, an animal shelter has already closed twice this year due to outbreaks.

“This virus is tricky because you think [all the dogs have] recovered, but then others can develop the disease six weeks later,” said Eva Yvonnet, who works at the Les poilus du 33 shelter in Gironde.

Dogs carrying the disease can remain symptomless for weeks before showing signs of the illness, making it difficult to trace the spread of the illness.

The only way to fully prepare is with a preventive vaccination, however animals vaccinated after catching the disease are not always fully protected.

In Mrs Yvonnet’s shelter, she attempted to vaccinate all of the pets she could after discovering the outbreak, however some died because they had already contracted the virus despite not showing any symptoms.

It is also difficult to diagnose the disease due to the long dormant period before symptoms arise.

She is now urging everybody who can to give their pets the vaccine; both to protect their own pets and prevent the illness spreading more widely in the area.

Read more: A third hunting dog dies of ‘false rabies’ in France: call for caution

Health authorities not worried – about humans

Despite the concern from animal charities, official health authorities say there is nothing to fear, and that no ‘outbreak’ is on the horizon.

“Distemper doesn't spread to humans, so information on the disease is kept under wraps,” said an individual who works in animal protection to France3.

“[It is not a disease health authorities talk about] so we don't know how many there are, but the consequences are devastating for animals all the same,” she added.

For their part, health authorities in the south-west are not fearful of the diseases spreading and believe that despite the rise in cases, there is nothing for pet owners to worry about.

"It's a known disease that can be lethal for dogs, but… there is a vaccine,” said Benoît Leuret, director of the DDPP in Gironde.

“It's not a disease that poses a problem for human health and it's easy to control cases, which are not exploding, with the vaccine,” he added.

The vaccine against Carré is not mandatory for dogs in France, but you can ask your vet to give it to them as a precaution.

It is best to vaccinate the animals as early as possible, and the first vaccination can be given when your dog is only eight weeks old.

Related articles

‘Book about life with my dog touched so many people’

Unmuzzled dog on train in France sparks complaint