On February 19, a Erro Valley Hunter went to the veterinary services of the GureVet company, after perceiving that his dog was scratching insistently the muzzle, to the point of peeling the entire left side of the face. The animal had been hunting on the morning of the 18th, but, according to the veterinarians’ investigations, the origin of the infection dates back to the 12th, when bit a wild boar. And while waiting for official confirmation, at that time he could be infected with the disease from Aujezsky.
When Teresa Etxarri Elizalde, veterinarian and owner of GureVet, examined the dog, he already perceived that he was showing neurological symptoms. “At first, he suffered from very acute itching, but later he began with tremors, incoordination, stiffness in his legs, a lot of drool…”, he recounts, while indicating that he died a day later. Etxarri explains that he had never had a case like this, although he knows the disease. “When you see something so characteristic, that it doesn’t fit with the usual, you start to investigate and you see that it is completely compatible with the Aujezsky”, he asserts.
This disease, which is also known as pseudorrabiais caused by a the virus that infected the central nervous system and other organs, such as the respiratory tract. It affects various mammals, such as dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, rabbits, foxes, mink, etc., except humans and tailless apes. Therefore, it is important to clarify that it is not a disease that causes problems for public health, as it is not a zoonosis. However, it is lethal in dogs, which usually die within a few days of contracting it. He Aujezsky natural reservoir it is in the suidae, both domestic and wild (wild boars). For this reason, the epidemiological correlation with hunting dogs in the Foral Community is highly relevant.
Etxarri points out that the infected dog was biting a wild boar in its posterior third, while there was another dog that bit the same animal, but in the area of the ears. The latter has been being watched, although he has not shown any symptoms. Scientific studies determine that there are greater chances of becoming infected if the dog eats meat, since it is where the infectious agent can be more present.
The problem with this pathology is that the official confirmation it can take months to arrive. GureVet’s vet, for example, had to go through an arduous path to follow protocol and overcome bureaucracy. “I almost went crazy – she explains – her, because they made me go around in a circle. I called Health and there they told me to talk to Public Health. From there, I went to Livestock, which sent me to Welfare, and the latter sent me to the College of Veterinarians. It was crazy”.
As a summary, for a veterinarian to send a sample to a laboratory, they must have official authorization. “In the end, they signed the document from Animal Welfare. So, I had to take out the dog’s brain and cut it in half. I sent one of the parts to the Carlos III Health Institute and the other to the Central Animal Health Laboratory of Algete. In the first, they will determine that it’s not about anger. And, at that time, the other reference center will process the sample. So it will take months, ”he adds.
From the Navarra Hunting Federation (FNC), the veterinarian and technical advisor Nicolás Urbani points out that, thanks to the collaboration of the hunter and the professional diligence of Etxarri, it was possible to clearly distinguish that the symptoms suffered by the dog were compatible with the Aujezsky, a disease against which there is no vaccine or treatment for dogs, despite being very present, since it is estimated that around 30% of all wild boars in Spain are carriers of this virus. Therefore, the risk of transmission to hunting dogs is very high.
“Right now, the Government is insisting a lot on issues related to animal health and welfare. But with a disease that is so lethal and with the current trend that only seems to prevail over animal protection, it is very surprising that nothing is being done”, Urbani emphasizes.
For this reason, the FNC, in collaboration with ARRECAL and GureVet, has prepared a report, which it has sent to the Government of Navarra, so that this body, as well as veterinarians and hunters become aware of the emergence of this ecopathology. “Currently, it is an underdiagnosed disease in hunting dogs and without an official communication protocol. And this first step is key to understanding the serious epidemiological situation and advancing in the investigation of future vaccines. In pigs, it already exists. Why couldn’t there be one for the dogs?” he wonders.
Today, the only existing tool, according to a review, is the prevention. “The hunting community must prevent dogs from biting wild boars too much during hunts and, if they are later fed with their meat, after heat treatment such as cooking,” he alleges. With the big game hunting season now over, the risk will drop, but Urbani claims that you always have to be vigilant, as there may be, for example, extraordinary hunts.
The document sent to the Provincial Executive synthetically describes the pathology, the epidemiological relevance of the wild boar and the serious conditions in hunting dogs. It is intended to inform, without generating alarm, that Aujezsky’s disease is not transmissible to humans, but that, in dogs, it is lethal, since there is no prophylactic or curative treatment. For this reason, it is emphasized that the only possible preventive measures, in the case of dogs, are to avoid their diet with meat or raw viscera of wild boars, minimize grab these ungulates and reduce the times of contact with killed animals, as well as that the access of the dogs to the remains or corpses that they can find in the field is controlled.
In this sense, owners of hunting dogs and veterinarians should be made aware of the importance of notifying the competent authorities of suspicions of the appearance of this disease. And, finally, the Government of Navarra is summoned to optimize the alert network and action protocols in case of suspicion of this pathology, in addition to seeking operational solutions for the prevention, fight and control of Aujezsky in dogs hunting.