Berrien County seeing spike in canine distemper cases, encouraging vaccinations for pets

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. - The Berrien County Health Department is urging pet owners to get their dogs vaccinated as health officials see an increase in the incurable and deadly canine distemper disease.

While preventable, canine distemper is a highly contagious disease caused by an airborne virus. Canine distemper is resistant to cold weather, and most cases in domestic dogs occur in the fall and winter.

The disease spreads through direct contact with an infected dog or wild animal but can also be contracted through contact with food bowls or anything contaminated by an infected animal. It’s not known to be transmitted to humans.

Canine distemper is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Thick yellow discharge from the eyes and nose
  • Seizures
  • Neurological changes, like aggressiveness, stumbling, lack of alertness, aimless wandering, head tilt and paralysis

If your dog has any of the symptoms, you're asked to keep them away from other animals and contact your veterinarian.

Dogs should get a distemper vaccine once a year their first two years and then every three years after that, according to the health department. Berrien County Animal Control has the vaccine for $25.

Learn more about vaccinations here and click here to learn more about the disease.

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