Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)
CWD or Chronic Wasting Disease is a transmissible neurological disease affecting the nervous system of farmed and wild cervids (deer, elk, moose etc.). As of August 2019 it’s been found in at least 24 states in the U.S. and 2 provinces in Canada. Some cases have also been reported in Norway, Finland, Sweden and South Korea (1).
Signs of CWD include:
Progressive weight loss
Behavioral changes including decreased social interaction
Loss of awareness
Loss of fear of humans
Loss of coordination
To this date CWD remains fatal and there is no known treatment or cure.
Is CWD a parasite or bacterial infection?
Comparable to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD; in humans) and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE; in cows, or better known as Mad Cow Disease)(2). CWD is not caused by parasites, bacteria or viruses but rather Prions. Prions are infectious proteins without associated nucleic acids that trigger normal proteins in the brain to fold abnormally. When this happens cell damage occurs along with neurodegenerative symptoms begin to take place.
How does CWD differ from other prion diseases?
CWD differs from other prion diseases because not only does it affect the brain but CWD also affects other tissues, it's found in feces and even bodily fluids(3). Because of this it’s able to be transmitted from animal to animal. It can even spread through soil (4) and an infected carcasses (5).
Can my dog or cat get CWD by eating infected meat?
While there have been no cases of dogs becoming infected with CWD and some studies show they seem to be immune to prion disease in general (6) there have been studies of domestic cats testing positive for CWD when they consumed infected deer brain (7).
Even though there hasn't been any cases of CWD spreading to dogs we prefer to be safe than sorry and highly advise doing the following before feeding cervid meat to your dog and especially before feeding to your cat:
Check the CWD map(1) or contact your local wildlife association to see if your area has any cases reported.
If possible, have the brain or spinal tissue tested for CWD. This must be from a fresh carcass. (Contact your local wildlife federation for more details on testing procedures).
Remove and avoid feeding the following parts: brain, spinal cord, spleen, eyes, tonsils and any lymph nodes left after field dressing.
1. CDC's Recent reported cases of CWD https://www.cdc.gov/prions/cwd/occurrence.html}.