Pseudorabies is a contagious infectious disease of swine caused by pseudorabies virus (PRV), a herpesvirus. Feral hogs are the main reservoir of PRV in the United States.

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 (with links to answers)

  1. What is pseudorabies?
  2. What other names is it commonly known by?
  3. What animals are in danger of contracting the disease?
  4. Can people be infected with pseudorabies?
  5. What is the main host for the disease?
  6. How is the virus spread?
  7. Can horses get it?
  8. Are dogs susceptible to contracting pseudorabies?
  9. Is there a vaccine to protect against the disease?
  10. Is there a cure for pseudorabies?
  11. How long has it been in the United States?
  12. How many wild boars have pseudorabies?
  13. Do any domestic pigs have pseudorabies?
  14. What are the symptoms of pigs when they have the disease?
  15. Do pigs recover from pseudorabies?
  16. How long can the virus live outside of the hog?
  17. Can you eat infected hogs without harm?
  18. What are the symptoms of dogs infected with pseudorabies?
  19. How long does it take symptoms to show after exposure?
  20. Can dogs give it to other dogs?
  21. Will this virus die out?
  22. How do I protect my dogs from this?

1. What is pseudorabies?

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.

2. What other names is it commonly known by?

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.

3. What animals other than pigs are in danger of contracting the disease?

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

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4. Can people be infected with pseudorabies?

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.

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5. What is the main host for the disease?

Swine are the main host for pseudorabies.

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6. How is the virus spread?

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.

7. Can horses get it?

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

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8. Are dogs susceptible to contracting pseudorabies?

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.

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9. Is there a vaccine to protect against the disease?

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.

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10. Is there a cure for pseudorabies?

No.

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11. How long has it been in the United States?

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

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12. How many wild boars have pseudorabies?

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.

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13. Do any domestic pigs have pseudorabies?

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.

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14. What are the signs of pseudorabies in pigs?

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

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15. Do pigs recover from pseudorabies?

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.

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16. How long can the virus live outside of the hog?

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

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17. Can you eat cooked meat from infected hogs without harm?

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.

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18. What are the signs of pseudorabies in dogs?

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.

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19. How long does it take dogs to show signs after exposure?

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

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20. Can dogs give it to other dogs?

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.

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21. Will this virus die out?

The virus will likely always be present in wild hogs.

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22. How do I protect my dogs from this?

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



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