What is Canine Distemper?
Canine distemper (aka Distemper) is disease of
dogs. It is caused by a virus. It can also
infect 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
dogs. It does not cause illness in people.
How do dogs catch Distemper?
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
What are the symptoms?
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 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
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 (boostered) a year later,
then every three years for life. To read more about vaccines
needed for puppies and adult dogs, click
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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 Outbreaks in Los Angeles
Distemper cases occur every year inn dogs in Los
Angeles County. Periodically there are reports
of outbreaks in wildlife and in dogs.
Reporting Distemper Cases
Canine distemper is a reportable condition in
Los Angeles County. Data from these reports
helps identify outbreaks and trends.
VETERINARIANS: Report a case of heartworm disease by using
this form or by using the
online reporting portal.