Canine Distemper Vaccination
Following are two articles published in 200o and 2001 about the state of Distemper Vaccines in the United States. PUREVAX™ ferret distemper vaccine was relatively reliable up until about 2008-2009. Since then the ferret community has been plagued by shortages, and inexplicable back-orders leaving many ferrets unprotected for months. As of June, 2014 the vaccine has been out of production for almost 1 year.
Shelters across the United States were caught off-guard. Merial kept saying though their distributors and customer service that the vaccine was “back-ordered” and would be available “shortly.” That was the seemingly never-ending story from June of 2013 until now one year later.
The Ferret Association of Connecticut as well as many shelters across the country have permanently switched to Nobivac Puppy DPV. Readily available for many years, while the product does contain a parvo vaccine, it has been shown to be safe for use in large shelters across the country.
There are serious concerns about the increased chances for allergic reactions in ferrets by constantly switching among vaccine products and formulations. While reactions can happen and veterinarians are generally ready to deal with them, as ferret owners we all worry about them. We are extremely disappointed in Merial’s inability to keep up needed inventory on a product critical to the health not only of our domestic companion pets but to their endangered wild “cousin” the Black Footed Ferret of North America as well.
PUREVAX™ Ferret Distemper Vaccine
By Mary Van Dahm in The F.A.I.R. Report, Nov./Dec. 2001
Our patience and our letters have finally paid off. Merial has finished testing its new ferret distemper vaccine and has received USDA licensing for PUREVAX™
Currently PUREVAX ™ is only available through veterinarians since Merial does not sell vaccines directly to the public. PUREVAX™ is more expensive than Fervac-D, but hopefully, as production increases, unit costs will go down.
Personally I think it is worth the extra money to have peace of mind. The chance of your ferret having a reaction to the new vaccine is very low (only one mild stinging has been reported out of several thousand vaccines given so far.) Even ferrets that have had previous reactions to Fervac-D have not had any reactions to PUREVAX™ so far.
Owners of ferrets that have had reactions to Fervac-D may still want to have their ferret pre-treated with Benadryl the first time the ferret receives the new vaccine, and we still recommend that you stay in your veterinarian’s office for at least a half an hour after a vaccination just to be on the safe side. When multiple vaccinations are needed (such as distemper and rabies) we still recommend a 3 week interval between the vaccinations.
About the vaccine:
· PUREVAX™ ferret distemper vaccine is a type 3 recombinant vectored vaccine. Recombinant technology eliminates the need to use the whole virus. This process prevents the virus from replicating in the ferret’s body and eliminates the possibility of the ferret accidentally contracting distemper from the vaccine.
· PUREVAX™ contains DNA sequence for two protective antigens: HA (hemagglutinin); F (fusion membrane protein).
· PUREVAX™ does not pose the risk of post-vaccinal encephalitis.
· PUREVAX™ has not shown indications of transient immunosuppression. (It does not supress the immune system after innoculation.)
If you have questions about PUREVAX™ ferret distemper vaccine or vaccinations in general, please talk to your veterinarian.
Distemper Vaccines – Galaxy-D versus Fervac-D
By L. Vanessa Gruden in Paw Printz, November – December, 2000
A letter from Carol Nogosek, printed in the Baltimore Ferret Club newsletter (August, 2000) describes her ferret’s extreme allergic reaction to a Fervac-D distemper vaccination. She knew her ferret was allergic, so in July 1999 her vet administered Benadryl prior to the vaccination. In July 2000, however, the Benadryl did not stop the severe reaction. Her ferret Mongo nearly died.
An attendee at the Frolic in December described to me her and her son’s grief at the loss of their ferret from a distemper vaccination – again using Fervac-D. Their vet had no idea ferrets could have such a bad reaction and was unable to revive their pet. I sat at a past Rhode Island frolic and watched an outrageous proportion of the ferrets vaccinated at a shot clinic drop limp, have seizures, and projectile vomit from Fervac-D.
In my mind, these are intolerable dangers. You should not have to regularly pre-treat your animal with an antihistamine just to give them a shot that is supposed to protect them from illness. And, as noted in Ms. Nagosek’s letter, the Benadryl is not a sure protector from harm.
Yes, I would love to support United Vaccines, maker of Fervac. They went to the expense of getting their vaccine approved by the FDA and I applaud their efforts to help ferrets. But I cannot support a vaccine that poses such risks to my animals – particularly since perfectly acceptable alternate vaccines exist.
Galaxy-D, manufactured by Schering Plough, is a single canine distemper vaccine packaged for dogs. Many other dog vaccines are “combo” shots – they include distemper, parvo, or other disease vaccines in one shot. Galaxy is one of the only ones strictly for canine distemper. It is readily available, although there was a shortage during the past few months. PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT ALL CANINE DISTEMPER VACCINES ARE TESTED ON DOMESTIC FERRETS. Because ferrets are the MOST susceptible to canine distemper, they are the “guinea pigs” of choice for distemper vaccines. No, Galaxy has not been formally “approved” for use in ferrets. Not “approved” does NOT mean “not effective!“
FACT has used Galaxy-D exclusively for most of the last nine years. We switched to Fervac when it arrived on the scene, but the reactions we kept seeing and hearing about forced us to abandon it and return to using Galaxy. While the possibility of an adverse reaction exists with ANY medication, the ONLY adverse reaction I have personally seen to Galaxy-D was when it was administered the same day as a rabies vaccination. (FYI, every manufacturer recommends you space vaccinations at least 2 weeks apart.)
Probably 600+ ferrets housed in the shelter have received the Galaxy-D vaccine in those nine years, including my own personal animals. And even with the number of animals from all over coming through the shelter, we have certainly had no distemper outbreaks.
Is it FACT’s “policy” to recommend one vaccine over another? No, FACT does not claim to have the medical expertise to insist anyone use one vaccine instead of another one. That is a question best left to medical professionals. Our discussion with our veterinarian and other experts has led us to the conclusion that Galaxy-D is a reasonable alternative. FACT doesn’t make “medical policies” that we have no business making. But if you ask me PERSONALLY, yes, I will tell you that I do not myself use Fervac, for the reasons described above.
Some people have told me their vet claims he or she cannot obtain Galaxy. This is nonsense – except for the few months mentioned above, it is readily available to individuals as well as to veterinarians. There are some clinics that are unwilling to order it in because you must purchase a 10-dose package, and since most dog vaccines are now the ‘combo” ones noted, there is little use for it other than for domestic ferrets. If you vet doesn’t have a big enough ferret practice, he or she might have to store Galaxy for a long period or even discard it if it reaches its expiration date. You can always offer to pay for the cost of any unused vaccines – they are only a few dollars apiece. You could plan to share the package with another ferret-owning client. Or you could simply take your ferret to a vet that does regularly stock Galaxy-D.
There is word in the ferret community that a different firm, Merial,Ltd., plans to release a new canine distemper vaccine for ferrets. Clinical trials are underway involving 700 ferrets. Interested vets can contact Dr. Zack Mills at Merial for further information. Hopefully this new vaccine will solve the problems we owners have experienced with distemper vaccines and keep our ferrets safe.
But please, in the meantime, discuss the potential dangers of Fervac with your veterinarian. Your ferret shouldn’t die from a vaccine meant to save them from another illness, and that is the bottom line for me.