REDONDO BEACH, Calif. - A warning for dog owners -- there's been a rise in the distemper virus in the South Bay, and it could be deadly to unvaccinated dogs.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has received dozens of reports of raccoons showing signs of distemper.
There have been four confirmed cases and 53 suspected cases, most of them in the South Bay area.
The disease does not affect humans or cats but can be deadly to unvaccinated dogs.
Most of the cases were detected in Redondo Beach and Wilmington.
Health officials are urging dog owners to get their pets vaccinated, since the virus is airborne and can easily spread from dog to dog.
The first symptoms of the illness are respiratory in nature and can present as nasal discharge and coughing.
- The virus, which can infect dogs, raccoons, skunks, foxes and large cats such as lions and tigers, impacts the lungs, airways, nose and eyes, according to the El Segundo Police Department.
- Dogs catch distemper from other dogs or wild animals that are infected with it. They can catch it by having direct contact with the sick animal, or by standing near the animal when it is coughing.
- They can also catch it if they have contact with food bowls or other objects that were contaminated by infected animals. Puppies and unvaccinated dogs are the most likely to catch it.
- The most common symptom of distemper is coughing, followed by fever and the development of discharge from the eyes and nose.
- The disease can also cause disorientation, tremors, twitches and seizures. Infected animals are vulnerable to catching more infections, such as bacterial pneumonia. The symptoms are similar in raccoons and other wildlife.
- How do you know if your dog is infected with distemper? You cannot tell for sure just by looking at the dog. Veterinarians can order blood and urine tests to test a dog for distemper.
- Your dog is not likely to have distemper if it received a full series of three or more distemper vaccinations when it was a puppy.
- How can I prevent distemper in my dog?
1. Vaccination. Distemper is prevented by vaccinating puppies with a series of 3 or more Distemper vaccines between the ages of 2 and 4 months. Distemper is the "D" in the DHLPP vaccine for dogs. The vaccine must be given again (booster) a year later, then every three years for life.
2. Protect puppies. Keep puppies at home, away from unfamiliar dogs, until they have finished their complete vaccination series.
3. Keep your dog away from sick dogs and wildlife. Do not let your dog have direct contact with any sick dogs, nor share food or water bowls with them.
4. Keep pet food and water indoors, away from wildlife. Outdoor pet food and water can attract raccoons and other wildlife. Distemper outbreaks occur in raccoons in Los Angeles County periodically. Sick raccoons can contaminate the bowls and transfer the virus to your dog.
If you have questions, feel free to contact ESPD Animal Control Officer Joe Camagong at (310) 524-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.