CDV (Canine Distemper Virus) Update – Science News

Posted on Jan 7, 2014 in News | 1 comment

Last year you helped us to raise money to support WVI implement a veterinary CDV monitoring network in Sumatra.  We just had a great update from  Mahendra Shrestha of the Smithsonian Institute on how Malaysia is now making a commitment to monitor its wildlife against this disease.   Included in this update is a wealth of information and scientific papers and reports on CDV.  If you have any questions or comments do not hesitate to contact us! We have also updated our Scientific Conservation papers with the reports from this update.

CDV Update from Mahendra, Smithsonian Institute

“Thanks to Dr. Siva from the Dept of Wildlife and National Parks in Malaysia for his prompt decision to include the CDV in their zoonotic disease monitoring for 2014.  I think we should all be alerted and take necessary monitoring exercise due to the possibility of the CDV infection appearing anywhere.

Emerging infectious disease is rapidly becoming a pressing problem for our future health and the ecosystem balance. The emergence of new pathogen as a result of their evolution or transmission due to increased consumption of wild meat poses a great challenge to maintain health of human society as well as the ecosystem.  Many veterinary and medical experts from different institutions (including Smithsonian Institution) around the world are working to increase global surveillance efforts on the emerging pathogens and timely address the challenges that are surfacing every now and then.

You will find useful information on the CDV in that attached document that was published by the GTF in its June issue of Newsletter.  It has the info on causes of infection, symptoms, preventive measures, and sample collection for lab test among others.  This is a recommended reading for all the conservation practitioners.

CDV in lions, tigers and leopards 1994

CDV Global Tiger Forum report

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences  /  Pathogen evolution and disease emergence in carnivores Alex J McCarthy*, Marie-Anne Shaw and Simon J Goodman*

Emerging infectious diseases constitute some of the most pressing problems for both human and domestic animal health, and biodiversity conservation. Currently it is not clear whether the removal of past constraints on geographical distribution and transmission possibilities for pathogens alone are sufficient to give rise to novel host-pathogen combinations, or whether pathogen evolution is also generally required for establishment in novel hosts.

Canine distemper virus (CDV) is a morbillivirus that is prevalent in the world dog population and poses an important conservation threat to a diverse range of carnivores. We performed an extensive phylogenetic and molecular evolution analysis on complete sequences of all CDV genes to assess the role of selection and recombination in shaping viral genetic diversity and driving the emergence of CDV in non-dog hosts.

We tested the specific hypothesis that molecular adaptation at known receptor-binding sites of the haemagglutinin gene is associated with independent instances of the spread of CDV to novel non-dog hosts in the wild. This hypothesis was upheld, providing compelling evidence that repeated evolution at known functional sites (in this case residues 530 and 549 of the haemagglutinin molecule) is associated with multiple independent occurrences of disease emergence in a range of novel host species.

Canine distemper virus: an emerging disease in wild endangered Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) Seimon TA, Miquelle DG, Chang TY, Newton AL, Korotkova I, Ivanchuk G, Lyubchenko E, Tupikov A, Slabe E, McAloose D.


Fewer than 500 Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) remain in the wild. Due to low numbers and their solitary and reclusive nature, tiger sightings across their range in the Russian Far East and China are rare; sightings of sick tigers are rarer still. Serious neurologic disease observed in several wild tigers since 2001 suggested disease emergence in this endangered species. To investigate this possibility, histology, immunohistochemistry (IHC), in situ hybridization (ISH), and reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) were performed on tissues from 5 affected tigers that died or were destroyed in 2001, 2004, or 2010. Our results reveal canine distemper virus (CDV) infection as the cause of neurologic disease in two tigers and definitively establish infection in a third. Nonsuppurative encephalitis with demyelination, eosinophilic nuclear viral inclusions, and positive immunolabeling for CDV by IHC and ISH were present in the two tigers with available brain tissue. CDV phosphoprotein (P) and hemagglutinin (H) gene products were obtained from brains of these two tigers by RT-PCR, and a short fragment of CDV P gene sequence was detected in lymph node tissue of a third tiger. Phylogenetically, Amur tiger CDV groups with an Arctic-like strain in Baikal seals (Phoca siberica). Our results, which include mapping the location of positive tigers and recognition of a cluster of cases in 2010, coupled with a lack of reported CDV antibodies in Amur tigers prior to 2000 suggest wide geographic distribution of CDV across the tiger range and recent emergence of CDV as a significant infectious disease threat to endangered Amur tigers in the Russian Far East.

YouTube CDV Information Videos


Big cats fall prey to dog disease

Sumatran tiger study – Wildlife Vets International


One Comment

  1. Only few Tigers are left in world, that also in India. Canine Distemper is a highly communicable disease which is spreading among tigers in India. Many positive cases have been reported. There is no vaccine all over the world to protect big cats against fatal Canine Distemper. Irresponsible Dog Shows, movement of owners with unvaccinated dogs from one part of country to other for attending dog shows, import of “carrier” dogs with newer strains of viruses without going through strict quarantine formalities are the main reasons for spread of canine distemper in wildlife. Inspite of complaining the Government machinery for last one and half years, no action is being taken. We must not forget what happened in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania in 1995 !!



    Kennel Club of India (KCI) is registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975. This body claims that the primary objective of KCI is to promote the scientific breeding of dogs and disseminate useful information for general use to those interested in the pure bred dog. KCI recognizes clubs that are found in different parts of the country for the promotion of the dog game. The Kennel Club of India is managed by a committee. The KCI’s corporate office is at Chennai. KCI’s committee members are big shots, they are mostly multimillionaire and from corporate houses.

    KCI affiliated local clubs are functioning all over the country. Many of them are not registered under Societies Registration Act in their states, e.g., in U.P. itself out of five clubs, three clubs are not registered under Societies Registration Act as per RTI information and information about rest two clubs have not been received so far. The local clubs are formed by local people, many of them are dog brokers, many are involved in business of dog food or dog accessaries etc. The sole power of these local clubs are in hands of Dog Mafias, who have their monopoly in this game and have made these clubs their own family enterprise. These people are doing treatment of dogs, doing unscientific fake vaccinations and performing surgeries like docking, cropping and even caesarians, without having any degree or diploma in veterinary science.


    KCI affiliated local clubs organize dog shows every year in different cities of our country. These shows are organized under supervision of the KCI. At least 6-7 months in advance, KCI grants permission for holding these dog shows. KCI announces show dates in show calendar of its official monthly magazine, ‘The Indian Kennel Gazette’, so that exhibitors could plan their tour and prepare their dogs for participating in the upcoming dog shows. Some “Great Dog Lovers” who have their own non scientific breed standard parameters depending purely upon some phenotypic external characters created by severe inbreeding, are appointed as ‘Honorable Judges’. These ‘Honorable Judges’ may be of foreign origin as we poor Indians have little knowledge about purebred dogs of foreign origin. And if so happens, this show is considered as Grand Dog Show under Foreign Judge and the dog entry fees is made just double. For becoming a dog show Judge there is no requirement for any knowledge from any educational board or university, there is no any prescribed syllabus for this, no government recognized certificate, diploma or degree is needed for becoming a KCI panel Judge for judging dog shows.
    The exhibitors download dog show ‘Entry Form’ from internet, fill it up and pay something between Rs. 1000-2000 per class (event), per dog as dog entry fees and send it to organizers before the show. Now the organizers organize the dog show. They do not feel the need to inform Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) of the district, Nagar Nigam or Zoo authorities (in case any zoo or any wildlife habitat is nearby). On the day of dog show, most of city hotels are packed with dogs and their owners. The Show starts around 8-9 A.M. At the entry point of show ground few soft speaking well dressed ‘Honorary Veterinarians’ (who have sweet relations with the club secretary) are found roaming here and there watching curiously the aristocratic owners of shiny dogs and look eager to be obliged by issuing promptly a so called ‘Health Certificate’ to awkwardly dressed owners of these dogs. The ‘Veterinary Examination’ is a mere formality. Occasionally, the Honorary Vet of local club does the great job of touching the testicles of the dog to ascertain that whether this valuable private part of body is in its place or not, as monorchid and cryptorchid dogs are not allowed to participate in the dog show. Now this Vet either puts his signature on a printed ‘Health Certificate’ or simply writes OK and puts his signature on the Exhibit Card. At this point the most surprising thing is that a vaccination certificate issued by a qualified veterinary surgeon is never checked in any All India Dog Show. Likewise, the Municipal dog license and Quarantine papers of imported dogs are also never checked. At the same time, no any biochemical or serological test is carried out to ascertain whether or not the dog is a ‘carrier’ or at ‘incubation stage’ of a communicable disease. This serological test is of prime importance because sometimes there are chances of vaccination failures due to mishandling, miscarriage and mis-transportation of the vaccine. This is particularly most important in cities where zoos or wildlife safaris or sanctuaries housing endangered wildlife like lions, tigers etc. are situated. This is also noteworthy that many exhibitors sometimes intentionally ignore the veterinary examination to avoid hidden diseases of their dogs to be exposed publicly. Once, the dog gets entry inside the show ground, no one is there to check his veterinary check-up papers.

    Now the actual dog show starts. Just to fetch double money from the exhibitors as entry fees, these days there is a fashion of organizing twin shows, means one ground and one pandal but two rings, two Judges, double awards and double entry fees for the participant dog. Participant dogs now enter one by one breed wise in one ring, smaller breeds first and larger breeds later and in the second ring in reverse order. The dogs are judged for their breed characteristics which are pre-determined standards set up by expert doggy people of their own community. In these breed shows which is most common these days in India, intelligence, scent discrimination, guarding instinct, obedience, disease resistance etc. are never judged. Most surprising thing is that no careful selective breeding is done to improve these useful traits of a dog. The whole dog show is just as ‘Miss India’ contest where external look and appearance is the only criterion for winning the awards. Now the Judge awards Challenge Certificates (CCs), Best of Breed (BOB) and Best Opposite Sex (BOS) awards to different breeds. When all the breeds have been judged, the Judge calls all the CC winning Dogs of different breeds in the ring and awards Best in Show, 2nd Best in Show, 3rd Best in Show to chosen dogs from this group of CC winners.


    This question frequently strikes into mind that why people come from such long distances like Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai etc., to states like UP, Bihar, MP, Punjab, Haryana etc. to participate in dog shows when in their own home states also such dog shows are organized. Actually fact is this that, 95% of exhibitors are dog breeders. They are doing heavy business in huge dog market. In their native states the dog game is well advanced. Every street of their towns are full of imported dogs or with dogs of imported bloodline. For this reason the competition is very tough there. North Indian states are lagging far behind in this dog game. Since, in North Indian states and in similar other states, the competition is very less, it is easier for a breeder to win a Challenge Certificate (CC) in these states. Once a dog achieves 3 CCs in three different dog shows, it becomes ‘Champion’, and a prefix CH. adds before its name. Now the price of pups from this Champion dog / bitch immediately rises upto 8-10 times or even more. A pup worth Rs 10,000 may fetch now Rs 80,000 to Rs 1,00,000, or even more, if the parents become Champions. This is the secret, why people come to North Indian states to participate in the dog show. Nothing is there in the interest of a common man who has already seen so many breeds like GSDs, Labradors, Dobermanns etc. in his life time. Contrary to ‘Objects’ of Kennel Club of India, this is not going to increase the scientific knowledge of a common man.


    Now comes the role of organizers, why they are so keen to organize an All India Dog Show, not a Pet Show? The organizers earn lakhs of rupees in these dog shows. As per their Show Catalogue, on an average approximately 500-600 dogs participate in any All India Dog Show. Many ‘Late Entries’ are also entertained with heavy extra charges which are not mentioned in dog show catalogue. The normal Dog Entry Fees for a participant dog is approximately Rs 1000-2000 per class (event), per dog. On the show ground many stalls are erected which are given to dog item selling people and very heavy rents are charged from them. Canteen people, parking contractors and banners are charged very heavily. At many places general public are also charged for visiting a dog show. This year Mysore Kennel Club charged Rs 50 per person from public for attending the dog show held on 25 Aug 2013 at Dassara Exhibition Ground, Mysore, and the club officials handed over a car parking token of this value as gate entry ticket. One such receipt is lying with this script writer, who went there to do a string operation on that day. At the time of dog show the organizers publish a Dog Show Souvenir, which contains a Show Catalogue and many ads. Complementary ads are also charged very heavily. Many times, Pharmaceutical companies or Dog Food Manufacturers, sponsor the whole dog show or a part of it, like prizes etc. These are also source of income for the club. The most important thing is that no proper account is maintained for all these income. Income tax, Entertainment tax etc. are altogether evaded by these organizers.


    In the whole nexus KCI’s role is also very significant. Since, the whole game runs in surveillance of KCI, the KCI also earns huge profit in this game. Once a common man buys a puppy from a breeder, it may or may not be registered with the KCI. In case, the puppy is already registered, the papers are to be transferred in name of new owner, and for this KCI charges a ‘Transfer Fee’. Apart from this, it is now mandatory for the new owner that he must be subscriber of ‘Indian Kennel Gazette’, an official monthly magazine published by the KCI, at least for one year and for this he has to pay Rs 300 more apart from transfer fee, otherwise papers of his puppy will not be transferred. Now if the puppy is not registered, the new owner will apply for fresh registration and for this he shall have to wait for until his puppy is six months old. Now this owner will go to some gentleman, who is part of this nexus, to get an ‘Opinion Certificate’, means this gentleman will certify that this puppy is an original one (which is not always true). At this moment this opinion certificate issuing person tells so many hi-fi stories about breeds, about the KCI and about the dog shows. Ultimately he becomes successful in trapping new dog lover into his nexus and he also becomes a life member of local club by paying a handsome amount. This new member now applies for fresh registration of his dog to KCI, he fills the form and sends it to KCI along with the Opinion Certificate and the requisite fees. This time he has to pay for Registration fees, Microchip charges and IKG subscription for at least one year. It means he has to pay approximately 1000 bucks to KCI.

    Now, if this new puppy is a female one, on attaining maturity at age of 1 to 1.5 years the new owner breeds it. A litter is born 60 days after the mating with a dog. Now the next step is ‘Litter Inspection’, which is also to be done by any gentleman of this syndicate. Mostly local club secretaries are authorized for this inspection. He has to certify that just after whelping he has seen all the live puppies and the number of live puppies he is certifying, can be registered with the KCI. Now again a foul play starts here. The puppies of pregnant bitch are mostly booked in advance. An advance money is deposited as booking money, which has generally been spent by most of the breeders. Now if the litter is too small, say only one or two puppies are born, and there is booking for 10 or 12 puppies, this new breeder asks the litter inspecting authority to solve the problem. This senior person now advises the breeder to arrange required number of substandard puppies of same breed from the market to honor the bookings he has with him. A ‘Litter Inspection’ certificate is prepared accordingly by the local club secretary for the requisite number of puppies and for this a handsome amount in form of cash or kind is obtained by him. Moreover, one sure shot ‘Vote’ becomes assured for this club secretary in next club election for his kindness and obligation to this new dog breeder. KCI is also not much worried about this, because the more the number of puppies are registered, the more is the registration fees, the more transfer fees, the more sale of microchips and the more is the number of IKG subscribers.

    Apart from this, KCI earns a lot of money from local clubs by way of Club Maintenance Fees, Dog Show Fees and a fixed percentage in form of commission from the amount the local clubs earn by making new life members. KCI also charges very heavy amounts for Kennel Registration, use of ‘Prefix’ and ‘Suffix’ with the name of puppies and for the advertisements of dogs and Kennels in the IKG. Since, these matters are very high level issues, the writer does not want to poke his nose into it.


    The real fact about the dog game is that the whole syndicate is running purely for commercial profits only. The main cards are in hands of some big guys of aristocratic class who belong to corporate world. KCI, which claims that its one of the objects is promotion of scientific breeding of dogs to ensure that robust and healthy dogs without congenital defects are produced. KCI also claims that it promotes research into canine diseases and canine care and welfare. Actually these claims are not at all true. KCI people have never done any PhD in any canine disease. Likewise, the claim for scientific breeding for ensuring robust and healthy dogs free from congenital diseases is also misguiding.
    We all know that KCI recognizes only purebred (pedigreed) dogs. Now we must know what are these ‘purebred’ dogs and how are they created? These purebred dogs are created through ‘inbreeding’, keeping into consideration some absurd phenotypic traits like ‘bulged eyes’, ‘wrinkled face’, ‘long drooling ears’, ‘arched fore limbs’, ‘miniature size’ etc., which once upon a time had appealed to any Maharaja or some great philosopher of canine world. There is no scientific basis of breed creation, which can really be said beneficial to mankind like disease resistance, more intelligence, more stamina etc. The result of drastic inbreeding among particular group of dogs increases the possibility of homozygosity of deleterious recessive alleles in a inbred population resulting in inbreeding depression. The net result is that these purebred dogs are genetically weak. They lack hybrid vigor and are vulnerable to various communicable diseases, and thus serve as source of infection to other indigenous local dogs and endangered wildlife.

    The next question arises, why these dogs are imported every year, when these breeds already exist in India. The purpose of all these dog imports is only for profit purpose. When some ‘Big Man’ imports a new dog, which is costlier than the previous imports, it attracts the ‘black-money’ holding dog lovers. They rush to this man for mating of their good-looking bitches with this new import. They pay a handsome amount which may go to several lakhs in form of ‘Stud Fees’ which we can say a sort of dowry. The whole payment is done in cash form as black money is involved in this game. No receipt is given or demanded. Once the bitch is mated with this new import, price of puppies of this bitch goes to very high figures which may again go to lakhs. The new players of this doggy game rush to buy these puppies, get it transferred in their names, purchase IKG, participate in dog shows, pay local clubs, win prizes and become famous as a new generation in dog game. this is the actual vicious cycle of this game.

    Frankly speaking in this doggy game there is no any increase in country’s GDP, nor we are getting any Olympic Gold Medal. People import dogs utilizing their black money. Once a dog comes into India, new diseases and new strains of viruses also get entry into our country as strict quarantine measures are not adopted in our country. Our local pets fall sick and we rush for newer vaccines. Now we start importing costly vaccines from other countries, our foreign currency reserve gets utilized, our gold reserve is utilized and ultimately this affects our economic growth and lives of our local pets and critically endangered wildlife badly affecting environmental balance.


    Since, it is not very easy to break the operation of this nexus, on the basis of Judgement Order of Honorable High Court of Allahabad (PIL 61400/2013 dated 11 Nov 2013), some measures can be adopted, so as to save lives of our local pets and endangered wildlife from fatal communicable diseases. These are as follows:

    1. Mandatory requirement of submitting photocopies of the following documents of all the participant dogs (in triplicate) one month before the dog show which shall be served to CVO, Zoo officials and Nagar Nigam authorities, who shall keep a record of these in their office.

    i- Vaccination Certificate containing records of complete primary vaccinations and regular yearly boosters, which has been issued by a qualified veterinary surgeon.
    ii- Municipal Dog License of the native town
    iii- Quarantine papers (if the dog is imported one)

    2. One day before the dog show, all the dogs shall be screened for communicable fatal canine distemper, parvo virus and corona virus infections by commercial kits. The cost of kits shall be borne by the organizers.

    3. Physical examination and verification of original documents on the day of dog show shall be carried out by Government vets.

    4. Since, the Dog Show is a private event, the salary and TA/DA of Govt. vets (as fixed by the CVO) shall be borne by the organizers and it should be deposited to CVO in advance, prior to permission from the CVO.

    5. All the clubs must be registered under the Societies Registration Act of State.

    6. The dog show venue must be beyond 50 Km from any Zoo or wildlife habitat.

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