Canine distemper in coyotes in Saskatoon, SK.

coyote near river2-josh maxwell

Photo courtesy of Josh Maxwell, UofA River Ice Group

In the past 3 months, six coyotes that were found dead or very ill within the City of Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) have been examined by the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre (CCWHC) and found to have Canine Distemper. Canine Distemper occurs naturally in many different species of wild carnivore, including members of the dog family (coyotes, wolves, foxes), the weasel family (skunks, mink, weasels, badgers) and in raccoons. It also has occurred in seals and in some species of wild cat such as bobcats, lynx and lions. It causes disease and death in domestic dogs (but is not a disease of domestic cats).

Canine Distemper is caused by a virus that is related to measles virus, and the disease in wildlife is similar to measles in people, which is a general over-all illness that can include pneumonia.  Canine Distemper probably exists in many wild carnivore populations as a disease that affects young animals and to which most adults have been exposed and are immune. However, sometimes large outbreaks occur among wild carnivores, causing widespread disease and death across a whole population.  This appears to occur in populations from which the virus has been absent for some years and thus in which adults and young are all susceptible and have no immunity from previous exposure. Such an event may be occurring in the Saskatoon area in coyotes.

Lately, the city of Saskatoon has seen a steady increase in the number of reported urban wildlife sightings, including of coyotes.  This outbreak of Canine Distemper in urban coyotes emphasizes the importance of vaccinating pet dogs against this disease and other infections they might acquire from urban wildlife, including rabies.

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1 Response

  1. 2013-03-14

    […] January 2013 wildlife veterinarians at the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre confirmed that six coyotes, which were recently found dead or ill in the Saskatoon area, were infect…. In late February, the Saskatoon SPCA restricted its intake of dogs after canine distemper was […]

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