Cases of infected wildlife are not unusual. But, the human population encroachment into wildlife habitats has forced raccoons, skunks, coyotes and opossums to adapt to city living. In some areas, garbage cans, pet food dishes and potted gardens provide a more sustainable food supply than previous habitats. The result is an abundant, unbalanced critter population that inevitably succumbs to diseases such as distemper, mange and rabies.
The situation in Redondo Beach, California, is another example of localized populations of wild animals infected with a disease similar to the distemper virus that can be transmitted to pets. Animal health pros must be the voice of reason and education to help humans understand the need for scheduled vaccinations to reduce the disease load in a specific area.
Source: KABC-TV (Los Angeles) via AVMA SmartBrief, December 5, 2017.
- Dogs get infected with distemper from other dogs or wild animals that are infected with it. They can contract it by having direct contact with the sick animal, or by standing near the animal when it is coughing.
- They can also develop 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 become infected.
See also: AVMA’s canine distemper brochure
INSIGHTS: You don’t have to live in the Los Angeles area to use this story. Consider social media or newsletter postings of this example with commentary about risk management in your location. Also, pets that travel need to be vaccinated for where they travel to in addition to their home-base area.
Raccoons and skunks frequently feed heavily during early winter, then often congregate in larger groups to semi-hibernate prior to breeding season. Now is a prime time for diseases to easily transfer. Vaccination remains the most effective method of reducing disease potential.