Dog owners beware: Long Beach Animal Care Services reports distemper outbreak

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A distemper outbreak has affected more than 38 raccoons and at least one skunk, primarily in East Long Beach, according to Long Beach Animal Care Services (ACS).

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 Los Angeles 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 from 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 for infection with 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.

ACS shared the following advice for pet owners from the Los Angeles County Public Health Department:

  • 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.
  • Protect puppies: 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 day care and boarding facilities.
  • Keep dogs away from wildlife: Never allow dogs to have contact with wildlife.
  • Keep pet food and water indoors, away from wildlife: Pet food and water left outdoors attracts wildlife, which can spread distemper to dogs.

Residents should report suspected distemper cases to the Long Beach Veterinary Disease Reporting System at longbeach.gov/vdrs to allow for local data collection and sharing with Los Angeles County.

More information about distemper and a history of distemper outbreaks in animals in Los Angeles County is available at: publichealth.lacounty.gov/vet/distemper.htm.

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