|Distemper in Dogs and Wildlife
What is distemper?
Distemper (aka canine distemper) is caused by a virus. It can infect
dogs, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and large cats
such as lions and tigers. The virus infects the
lungs, airways, nose, and eyes. It can also infect
the brain and suppress the immune system.
Distemper can cause serious illness and death in
these animals. It does not cause illness in
cats or people.
How do dogs catch
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.
What are the symptoms in animals?
Coughing is the most common symptom. They usually develop
fever and discharge from the eyes and / or 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
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.
What is the treatment for distemper?
Currently, there is no treatment that kills the virus inside
the animal. Veterinarians administer medications to fight
the extra infections (such as pneumonia) and to prevent
seizures, while the dog's body fights off the virus.
How can I prevent distemper in my dog?
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. To read more about vaccines
needed for puppies and adult dogs, click
2. Protect puppies.
Keep puppies at home, away from unfamiliar dogs,
until they have finished their complete
3. Keep your dog away from sick dogs
Do not let your dog have direct contact with any
sick dogs, nor share food or water bowls with
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.
Distemper in Wildlife in Los Angeles
Distemper outbreaks occur regularly in wildlife and
sporadically in dogs
in Los Angeles County.
distemper is a reportable
condition in Los Angeles County.
Data from these reports helps
identify outbreaks and trends.