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Pseudorabies

Background
Dogs exposed to feral hogs are at risk for pseudorabies.  Dogs should not be fed raw feral hog meat.  Moving hogs to new areas may spread the disease.

The disease is not a threat to humans, but it is always fatal in dogs.

Questions

Pseudorabies is a viral disease that causes abortions, stillbirths, and respiratory problems in pigs and death in piglets . Commercial swine production herds in the U.S. have been PRV-free since early 2003.  Infections continue to occur in feral swine and in domestic swine that come in contact with feral swine.

It is also known as mad itch or Aujeszky's disease. When pseudorabies infects animals other than pigs, it causes erratic behavior similar to rabies and also intense itching, hence the name “mad itch”. Pigs do not display “mad itch” signs.

Pseudorabies can occur in dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, and goats, as well as wildlife including bears, coyotes, opossums, panthers, raccoons, rats, mice, and mink.

There are no records of humans contracting this disease, not even people working on farms with many PRV-infected animals. Hunters and others handling raw feral hog meat, however, are at risk for brucellosis, a bacterial disease. Consequently when handling hogs or raw meat, wear impermeable gloves; refrain from eating, drinking or using tobacco products; avoid direct contact with blood, other body fluids, feces and raw meat; wash and disinfect any surface that comes in contact with raw meat or blood; and wash hands frequently.

Swine are the main host for pseudorabies.

PRV spreads primarily through direct nose-to-nose contact between an infected pig and a non-infected pig. PRV can also spread when pigs or other animals eat contaminated feed or carcasses or inhale aerosolized virus. If present on inanimate objects, such as boots, clothing, feed, trucks and equipment, the virus can also spread from herd to herd and farm to farm.

Horses are resistant to the disease, and reports of horses contracting pseudorabies are very rare.

Yes, and it is always fatal when they do contract pseudorabies. It is unlikely that dogs or other animals would be in danger of contracting PRV unless there has been direct contact through a bite wound or through consumption of raw feral hog meat.

The modified-live vaccine is labeled only for domestic swine and is available only to veterinarians through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  Consult a licensed veterinarian for further information regarding vaccination and prevention for domestic swine.

There is no vaccine approved for use in dogs; however, dog owners should consult their local veterinarian regarding vaccination.

No.

Pseudorabies has been in the United States for at least 150 years.

Studies in south Florida suggest 40 to 50 percent of wild boars are infected. While many feral swine are carriers, few are  infectious at any given time. Stress from overcrowding, high water levels or poor nutrition can increase the percentage of swine that are infectious and thus increase disease transmission.

There have been no reported cases in commercial production herds of domestic pigs in the United States since 2003. Sporadic infections have been found in transitional production herds of captured feral pigs or domestic pigs that have the potential to come in contact with feral pigs. Infected transitional herds are promptly depopulated to prevent viral spread to commercial production herds.

Young pigs may die, pregnant sows may abort, and older pigs may appear healthy until stressed, then develop runny noses and watery eyes.

Yes, if they are old enough. Survival rates may be only 50% in nursery pigs but 98% to 99% in grower and finisher pigs. Survivors are probably carriers of the virus for life and will likely show signs of the disease only when chronically stressed.

It can live up to four days, although the likelihood of being exposed to enough of the virus through indirect contact is low.

Yes.  However, it is recommended that any animal showing signs of being sick (emaciation, abscesses, runny eyes or nose) not be consumed as a general precaution, especially considering the potential for other diseases, including brucellosis.  Many hogs carry the virus but appear perfectly healthy. Feral swine also carry swine brucellosis which can infect people.

Infected dogs will scratch themselves uncontrollably.  The disease progresses to signs that mimic rabies, with frothing at the mouth, loss of muscular control and erratic behavior.  Death occurs usually within 48 hours.

Signs can occur in dogs within days after exposure to PRV.

There are no known cases where dogs have infected other dogs. The principal risk of infection in dogs is exposure to hogs that are actively shedding the virus.

The virus will likely always be present in wild hogs.

There is no vaccine approved for use in dogs. Dog owners can minimize exposure by keeping dogs on a leash and away from feral hogs and domestic hogs that may have been in contact with feral hogs. Additionally, dogs should not be fed uncooked feral hog meat or offal.

Page last reviewed: December 4, 2017