Is Your Dog Vaccinated Against Distemper?

Recently, there has been an outbreak of distemper among wildlife and now more than ever, it’s important to ensure your dog is up-to-date on his vaccinations against this deadly disease. As always, don’t let your dog interact with or chase wildlife.

We’re also asking the public’s help in identifying sick wildlife.

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Please read the following information from our friends at WildCare:

This week, WildCare’s Wildlife Hospital admitted six wild animals from Marin County (three raccoons and three foxes) that have tested positive for the distemper virus.

This is significant, as this disease is extremely contagious and travels quickly through wild animal populations. Foxes, raccoons, coyotes and skunks are particularly susceptible to this deadly disease.

Although distemper outbreaks in wildlife occur on a cyclical basis approximately every seven years, we have not seen distemper in Marin County for 12 years. The last outbreak decimated the Gray Fox population in our county. Gray Foxes, and the other species most affected by distemper, mostly eat rodents. These animals are the biggest providers of natural rodent control in our yards and neighborhoods.

The disease does not affect humans, but it does affect dogs. In fact, this distemper outbreak may have been introduced to wildlife populations by unvaccinated domestic dogs. WildCare and Marin Humane strongly encourage people to vaccinate their pets and never let them interact with wildlife.

Distemper FAQ

Can humans catch distemper? No. The disease is not contagious to humans.

How often should my dog receive his distemper vaccine? Your dog should receive a vaccine booster every three years.

Which wild animals are most affected by distemper? The disease affects raccoons, foxes, coyotes and skunks. It is extremely contagious between these animals, and it has a very high mortality rate.

What are the symptoms of distemper? The classic distemper symptoms are heavy discharge from the animal’s eyes and nose, lethargy, lack of coordination and balance, approachability, and seizures. The 2020 distemper outbreak appears to have fewer respiratory symptoms and more neurological symptoms.

What should I do if I see an animal acting strangely? Please call WildCare’s Hotline at 415-456-7283 to determine if what you are seeing are distemper symptoms. If confirmed, we may ask you to call Marin Humane 415-883-4621, or your county’s animal control organization, to pick up the animal.

Note: the rescuer must stay with the animal and keep the animal in sight until the Marin Humane officer arrives. Do not attempt to handle the animal.

There’s a raccoon in my yard during daylight. Does that mean he is sick? No. It is perfectly normal for raccoons, skunks, foxes and coyotes to be out during the day, although they generally prefer to be active between dusk and dawn. Seeing an animal during the daytime does not mean the animal is sick. However, watch for the symptoms of distemper to determine if the animal needs help (lethargy, lack of coordination and balance, approachability, seizures, discharge from eyes and nose.)

Map of WildCare’s Suspected and Confirmed Distemper Cases

Distemper Map courtesy of Wildcare