Canine Distemper Virus: This is a potentially fatal disease of dogs, wild cats, ferrets and a variety of other wild animals. Unfortunately, it is relatively common in unvaccinated dogs around Saskatchewan. Affected dogs will typically develop runny eyes, nose, a cough which often progresses into pneumonia and vomiting & diarrhea. If a dog survives the initial bout of Distemper it may develop fatal seizures three to six weeks after the initial infection. In adult dogs Distemper is fatal in about 50% of the cases; in young puppies the fatality rate is about 80%. There is no cure for Distemper; animals that are affected can only be offered supportive care. The virus is transmitted by direct contact with an affected animal, airborne transmission through coughing, and transmission on hands and clothes when people touch an infected animal and then go and touch a healthy one. Fortunately the vaccine is very effective at preventing Distemper.
Rabies: This virus causes a fatal encephalitis (brain swelling) in all mammals, including humans. Rabies is spread through contact with infected saliva, usually through bite wounds. There is some evidence that airborne transmission from bat feces may be possible. The most common wild carriers of Rabies in Saskatchewan are bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes and coyotes. The vaccination is very effective and will protect not only your pet but also prevent your pet from spreading the disease to your family if s/he is bitten by an infected animal. Animals not vaccinated for rabies can be ordered into quarantine - to watch for symptoms or euthanized because testing for rabies can only be performed on the brain after death.
Ferrets, depending on their lifestyle, require a series of two Distemper vaccinations as babies, then this vaccine is given annually. These vaccines are done 4 weeks apart.
The Rabies vaccine is given as a 1 year the first time they get it (usually around the same time as the second Distemper vaccine). The following year a 3-year Rabies is given and then every three years after that.