Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has an extended incubation period averaging 18–24 months between infection and the onset of noticeable signs. During this time frame animals look and act normal. The most obvious sign of CWD is progressive weight loss. Numerous behavioral changes also have been reported, including decreased social interaction, loss of awareness, and loss of fear of humans. Diseased animals also may exhibit increased drinking, urination, and excessive salivation.
All CWD symptoms can have other causes and could lead to misdiagnosis of the condition if the animal is not specifically tested for CWD.