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What is Aujeszky Disease?

Aujeszky disease may be better known by its additional name of pseudorabies.  It is a virus your dog can contract from infected swine and possibly other animals.  This virus can be contracted from other animals that come into contact with your dog via aerosol transmission, or if your dog ingests the carcass of an infected swine.  Symptoms are similar to that of an animal with rabies, hence the name.  Once infected, the virus replicates within your dog’s lymphatic system and progresses quickly.  Unfortunately, this disease is almost always fatal making prognosis of recovery very poor.

If you notice your dog acting abnormally you should take him to his veterinarian for a checkup.  Symptoms of aujeszky disease can be life threatening and the condition itself is usually fatal.

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Symptoms of Aujeszky Disease in Dogs

Symptoms of this disease may include but are not limited to:

  • Fever
  • Intense local pruritus
  • Respiratory distress
  • CNS symptoms (circling, paralysis, maniacal behavior)
  • Sudden death 

Types

Aujeszky disease is more commonly known by the name of Pseudorabies.  It is a DNA herpesvirus with the pig as the only reservoir host but the virus can infect many species, including your dog.  Once infected, the virus will replicate in the epithelium of your dog’s nose, tonsils or pharynx.  Replication continues in the lymphatic system and then spreads via nervous tissue to the brain.

Causes of Aujeszky Disease in Dogs

The virus that causes aujeszky disease can be transmitted to your dog by fecal-oral contact or by nose-to-nose contact with a pet carrying the virus.  The virus can also be transmitted through the air; this would be considered indirect transmission via inhalation.  Humidity and other weather conditions can contribute to how long the virus remains as an aerosolized virus.

Diagnosis of Aujeszky Disease in Dogs

Diagnosing aujeszky disease in your dog will start with a physical exam.  Your veterinarian will want to take his vitals and make note of all of his symptoms if possible.  However, if your dog is acting especially manic, the veterinarian may suspect actual rabies and may suggest sedation for everyone’s safety.  She will also want to collect a history from you about your dog.  His lifestyle, last time he received any vaccinations, when the symptoms started, if they have progressed, and so on in order to get a better idea of what he may be experiencing.  

If your dog can be handled, skin scraping of the itchy area may be recommended to rule out external parasites such as mites.  Blood work is recommended to check for infection, anemia, and overall organ function.  If available to your veterinarian, she may even collect and evaluate cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) for any abnormalities.

Since the infection sets in very quickly, the body usually does not even have time to attempt to produce an antibody making diagnosis via antibody test while alive almost impossible.  There is of course postmortem diagnostic testing that will be recommended to confirm a proper diagnosis as well as to rule out the rabies virus.  Tissue samples will be tested, virus isolation will be performed, and antibody evaluations will be done; these are just a few tests the veterinarian will perform in order to come to a proper diagnosis.  This disease is reportable so necropsy is practically mandatory.  Testing for verification is not only for your safety, but also for the safety of the veterinary staff that came into contact with your pet, as well as other pets in your household.

Treatment of Aujeszky Disease in Dogs

There is no known treatment for aujeszky disease.  Your veterinarian can offer your dog supportive care, but unfortunately this disease is almost always of quick progression and ultimately fatal.  

Ideally, you will want to do your best to prevent your dog from contracting this disease.  Vaccinations against this disease are not available for your dog, but they are available for swine.  If you have swine on your property, ensure they are fully vaccinated.  If you feed your dog any pork products, be sure to cook it thoroughly before offering it to him.

If you know you live in a region where this disease has been documented, keep your dog away from other animals such as wildlife, especially wild boars, and even other dogs that you do not know the history of.  Aujeszky disease is reportable so if it has been found in the area at one point, there will be documentation of it.

Recovery of Aujeszky Disease in Dogs

Unfortunately there is almost no chance of recovery from aujeszky diease.  It is a progressive disease that ends up being fatal.  However, your veterinarian can offer your dog supportive treatment and ease his pain and suffering.  This is a devastating disease to everyone involved.