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California Warns Pet Owners

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is warning pet owners of an unusually high number of canine distemper virus (CDV) cases in wildlife populations statewide.

The CDV can infect a wide range of domestic and wild carnivores, including some non-canids. The most commonly affected species are gray foxes, raccoons and skunks.

Officials say that unvaccinated domestic dogs can potentially contract the disease when their food and water bowls are shared with infected wild carnivores. They also tell pet owners to avoid letting their domestic animals to come in contact with wildlife.

CDV is typically transmitted when an animal inhales infected respiratory droplets or has direct contact with saliva, nasal discharge and tears. Feces and urine may also be a source of transmission. CDV is more common in adult animals during winter months. Juvenile animals may be more likely to carry the virus during spring and summer months. This virus is not transmissible to humans.

Distemper is known to cause respiratory, neurologic, and gastrointestinal illness. Some of the symptoms may include depression, fever, labored breathing, diarrhea, anorexia, incoordination, moving in circles, yellow to clear discharge from the nose and eyes, and crusting on the nose, eyes, mouth or foot pads.

Currently, there is no known treatment for sick animals. All we can offer is supportive care. Some infected animals may not survive the illness. While an animal may not show any signs, it can still spread the virus for up to 90 days.

The CDFW urges the public to stay away from sick or injured animals because they may feel threatened and act aggressively. If sick animals are spotted, they ask for you to report the sick animal’s behavior and location to your local animal control agency.