Help prevent the spread of distemper-your pets are depending on YOU!
Learn more about distemper:
Courtesy LA County Veterinary Public Health:
From February 2017 through April 13, 2018, multiple clusters of suspected distemper in raccoons were reported to Veterinary Public Health (VPH). During that period, local animal control agencies reported a total of 303 sick raccoons with signs compatible with distemper. Most of the cases were reported during the winter of 2017-2018, with the peak occurring in January 2018 (66 cases). In 2017, clusters were primarily reported from the San Gabriel Valley, the South Bay, and LA Harbor areas. The most recent clusters, in 2018, were reported in Santa Clarita and the San Fernando Valley.
Nine of the 303 raccoons were necropsied and all nine confirmed to have distemper. Several necropsied raccoons also had evidence of rodenticide exposure and one had Leptospirosis. Thirteen raccoons were also tested for rabies and found to be negative.
Distemper is a viral infection that can infect dogs, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and large cats such as lions and tigers. The virus does not cause disease in cats or humans. In LA County, raccoons are the local reservoir species for distemper. Dogs can become infected with the distemper virus from direct contact with a sick animal or being near an infected animal when it is coughing or sneezing. The virus can also be transmitted through shared food and water bowls, or other objects that were contaminated by an infected animal. Puppies and unvaccinated dogs are at highest risk of catching distemper.
Common clinical signs of distemper in dogs include discharge from the eyes and/or nose, fever, coughing, lethargy, disorientation, tremors, and seizures. The clinical signs are similar in raccoons and other wildlife. Currently, there is no treatment for distemper so preventing the disease in dogs is crucial.
Los Angeles County veterinarians are advised to:
1. Vaccinate dogs for distemper: Puppies should receive a series of 3 or more distemper vaccines between the ages of 2 and 4 months. The vaccine should be boostered a year later, then every three years for life.
2. Protect puppies: Advise dog owners to keep puppies at home and away from unfamiliar dogs, until they have completed the vaccination series. Use caution when socializing dogs or in areas where dogs congregate, such as dog parks, doggy daycare, and boarding facilities.
3. Keep dogs away from wildlife: Advise dog owners to never allow their dogs to have contact with wildlife.
4. Keep pet food and water indoors, away from wildlife: Advise dog owners that pet food and water left outdoors attracts wildlife, which can spread distemper to their dog.
5. Report all cases of distemper in Los Angeles County:
Karen Ehnert, DVM, MPVM, DACVPM
Director, Veterinary Public Health
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
313 N. Figueroa St, Room 1127
Los Angeles, CA 90012