Local dogs at increased risk for canine distemper

Over a dozen raccoons throughout north St. Joseph County have tested positive for distemper.

The virus has symptoms similar to rabies, and is often fatal to dogs.

The medical director of the Humane Society of St. Joseph County, Carol Ecker, says this isn’t something to take lightly.

“This is something that’s really real and can cause a lot of trouble with these animals,” said Ecker.

Ecker says no local dogs have been infected but it’s been over 15 years since they’ve seen this many local raccoons with the virus so to animal experts it's a big cause for concern.

“All it takes is one or two dogs and before you know it everybody’s got it,” said Ecker.

The virus can easily spread from raccoons to dogs and ferrets, especially if your animal spends a lot of time outside.

“It affects the neurological part of the body, also can affect the intestinal tract and stomach and usually neurological and upper respiratory,” said Ecker.

With no cure, the humane society says they want to make sure pet owners are taking the necessary steps to prevent spreading the virus in the first place.

“Vaccinate your dogs. Call your veterinarian find out exactly what your veterinarian thinks they need to do for you,” said Ecker.

Distemper is not a concern for humans. Although you can get the virus, you wouldn’t suffer the same effects.

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