Most pet owners have not only heard of distemper but also know that it's high mortality rate makes it especially dangerous. Until last week I never realized that canine distemper can also infect a wide range of wild carnivores, most commonly foxes, raccoons and skunks - all of which live in my rural area of California.
Last week the Department of Fish & Wildlife reported an unusually high number of canine distemper virus (CDV) cases in wildlife populations throughout the entire state of California.
The report warns that unvaccinated domestic dogs can potentially contract the disease through contact with food bowls and water sources that are "shared" with infected wild carnivores.
In the report Senior Wildlife Veterinarian Deana Clifford says that distemper is the most common disease cause-o-death in California's carnivores. Transmission of the distemper virus typically occurs similar to the common cold, via inhalation of infected respiratory droplets or direct contact with saliva, nasal discharge and tears.
As in domestic canines there is no treatment for sick animals except supportive care. Infected animals may or may not survive the illness. Signs include (but are not limited to) depression, fever, labored breathing, diarrhea, anorexia, incoordination, moving in small circles, yellow to clear discharge from the nose and eyes, and crusting on the nose, eyes, mouth or footpads. Animals with the virus may not show clinical signs but can still spread the virus for up to 90 days.
In addition to removing food and water dishes, the department of Fish & Wildlife urges the public to keep both themselves and their pets a safe distance from sick or injured wild animals, as animals that are ill or feel threatened may act aggressively.
Candace Huskey, President