Veterinary Public Health

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Veterinary Public Health Program
313 N Figueroa St. Rm 1127
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel (213) 288-7060
Fax (213) 481-2375
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Distemper in Wildlife 2020-2021
group of raccoons eating outside from a dog bowl

What is Distemper?
Distemper is a virus that causes disease in dogs and certain wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes.  Distemper does not affect humans or cats.  This disease can be spread between infected wildlife and dogs through airborne transmission and contact with shared surfaces (e.g. waterbowls).  Common clinical signs of distemper in dogs include: fever, discharge from the eyes or nose, coughing, lethargy, disorientation, tremors and seizures.  Currently there is no treatment for distemper, so preventing the disease in dogs is crucial.
Click here to learn more about distemper

Outbreak of Distemper in 2020-2021 in Wildlife
Throughout Los Angeles County, local animal control agencies have reported an increased amount of wildlife suspected of having distemper.  Distemper outbreaks in wildlife in an area pose an increased risk for distemper in dogs in that area.  From April 2020 to December 7, 2021, these agencies reported 315 raccoons, 2 coyotes, 17 foxes and 6 skunks with clinical signs consistent with distemper.  Of these, there were 237 raccoons, 2 coyotes, 17 foxes and 6 skunks reported to have possible neurologic signs.  To date, 13 raccoons and 3 foxes have been necropsied or tested and confirmed to have distemper.  As the neurologic symptoms of distemper are indistinguishable from the neurologic symptoms of rabies, public health has conducted rabies surveillance testing on many of the distemper suspects showing neurologic signs.  168 raccoons, 15 foxes and 5 skunks have been tested for rabies and all found to be negative.  It is very important to consider rabies as a differential diagnosis when neurologic wildlife or pets are reported in the community or presented to a veterinary or animal control facility.  

Reported cases of distemper suspects in Los Angeles County from April 2020 to December 7, 2021:

Species Suspect distemper Neurologic signs Confirmed distemper Tested for rabies (all negative)
Raccoon 302 237 13 168
Fox 14 17 3 12
Coyote 2 2 None tested None tested
Skunk 6 6 None tested 5
*This table includes cases shared from the Pasadena Humane Society and the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services.  

         Map showing reported locations of distemper confirmed and suspect wildlife in Los Angeles County from April 2020 to December 7, 2021


                chart showing repoted distemper wildlife cases by month in Los Angeles County from April 2020 to December 7, 2021


Los Angeles County veterinarians and pet owners are advised to:

  • Vaccinate dogs and puppies 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 dog parks, doggy day care and boarding facilities.

  • Keep dogs away from wildlife.

  • Keep pet food and water indoors, away from wildlife.  Pet food and water left outdoors attracts wildlife which can spread distemper to dogs.

  • Report all cases of distemper or neurologic wildlife in LA County to Veterinary Public Health using this reporting form.


To stay up to date on emerging animal health issues, veterinary professionals are encouraged to join the Animal Health Alert Network (AHAN) to receive updates and alerts via email.  To subscribe to the AHAN complete the online form here or fill out the form by hand and email it to  To view recent and archived AHANs, visit here.


To view the original AHAN released about this distemper outbreak in wildlife on December 14, 2020 see here

To view the most recent AHAN released about this distemper outbreak in wildlife on March 10, 2021, see here.   


Last updated: December 8, 2021

Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.
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