On July 23rd, the NYC Dept of Health issued an alert to veterinarians that 20 Central Park raccoons tested positive for the distemper virus.


Dogs are especially at risk for infection by the distemper virus, but the germ also infects other animals including foxes, ferrets and raccoons.  The virus is highly infectious and transmitted through the saliva, feces, respiratory discharge, and urine of infected animals.  Animals that survive the disease can shed the virus for months after recovering.

Symptoms of Distemper In Dogs


Dogs infected with distemper virus can exhibit the following symptoms: gastrointestinal problems including vomiting and diarrhea, lack of appetite, fever, respiratory symptoms including discharge from the eyes and nose, and neurological signs that can cause the patient to circle, masticate, and briefly paralyze.  It is hard to distinguish between neurological signs caused by distemper and those caused by rabies, so you should be especially cautious of any animal that is behaving abnormally.  Approximately 80% of puppies that contract distemper die.  Mortality rates in adult dogs is probably less than 50%, but still high when compared to other canine illnesses.  The disease is almost 100% fatal in ferrets.


Can My Cat Get Canine Distemper?


No. Cat owners need not be alarmed by the Central Park outbreak.  The virus that causes canine distemper is not the same as the one that causes feline distemper.


Can People Get Distemper From Raccoons?


No, but there are at least two other illnesses that you can contract from contact with raccoons, rabies and leptospirosis, both of which are found frequently in NYC raccoon populations.  You and/or your dog should not have physical contact with any raccoons found in NYC.


Outbreaks of Distemper In Wild Typically Signal Outbreaks in Domestic Dogs


Outbreaks of distemper in the wild, typically signal outbreaks of distemper in domesticated dog populations.  According to the American Animal Hospital Association, “Canine Distemper outbreaks in local raccoon populations can signal increased risk for pet dogs in the area.”


All NYC Dogs Should Be Vaccinated Against Distemper


The NYC Dept. of Health recommends that pet owners restrict pets from off-leash play in Central Park during this current outbreak, but the best protection against infection is vaccination.  East Side Animal Hospital stocks one of the most effective and safest vaccines against canine distemper on the market.  Use the call button or form below to reach out to us for help.


Distemper Vaccination Protocol for Puppies and Adult Dogs


Puppies should be vaccinated against distemper at 8, 10 and 12 weeks of age.  Adult dogs require the vaccination annually or once every three years depending on the vaccine.  The vaccine typically includes protection against two other highly infectious diseases, parainfluenza and parvo virus.  Some distemper vaccines also include protection against leptospirosis, another serious disease that is often transmitted by NYC raccoons and rats.

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