Arlington Urges People to Protect Their Pets Amid Distemper Outbreak in Wildlife

by Courtney Blackann
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If your animals don’t have a vaccine protecting them against distemper, now’s the time to do it. Officials in Arlington, Texas are urging pet owners to keep an eye out as there’s been a major distemper outbreak among the city’s wildlife.

According to local news KRLD, both wild foxes and raccoons are showing symptoms of distemper in the area.

“We are seeing some distemper in some of our wildlife, such as raccoons and foxes currently,” Ashley Woolnough, animal services manager for the City of Arlington said. “It is an upper respiratory infection that also affects the nervous system of animals.”

Last month alone, the outlet reported that city officials picked up 18 infected raccoons. This could be tricky for pet owners who leave food and water out for their outdoor animals. While meant strictly for your pet, raccoons have no qualms about helping themselves to some easy grub.

In case you’re wondering if your pet may already be exhibiting signs of distemper, there are some things you can watch out for.

“Ocular discharge where the eyes are really goopy, crusty nose from lots of drainage from their nose, neurological signs like headshaking, wobbly, disoriented,” Woolnough explains.

She adds:

“A lot of people like to leave food out for their dogs and cats,” Woolnough said; “and when they do that, they’re not just feeding their pets, but they’re feeding the whole neighborhood of animals.”

Signs and Treatment of Distemper in Wildlife

Some other ways to curb the disease are to keep a tidy yard. That means removing clutter and keeping the grass short. This will discourage animals from coming too close to residences. But the best way to keep distemper at bay is to routinely get vaccines for your pets so they’ll be happy and healthy.

And in case you were wondering about how distemper spreads in animals, here are a few more facts about the disease by veterinarians Tammy Hunter and Ernest Ward.

“Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic dogs and other animals such as ferrets, skunks, and raccoons. It is an incurable, often fatal, multisystemic (affecting multiple organs) disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems. Distemper is caused by the canine distemper virus (CDV),” they write for vcahospitals.com.

They go on to write:

“As with most viral infections, there is no specific treatment. Antibiotics (e.g., amoxicillin, ampicillin) are not effective against viruses. But [they] do help in controlling the secondary bacterial infections that often occur with distemper. The treatment for distemper is aimed at helping reduce the intensity of signs and symptoms. This is accomplished with hospitalization to provide the patient with intensive nursing care, intravenous fluid therapy, and symptomatic treatment for the vomiting, diarrhea, cough, etc. Anti-seizure medications (e.g., diazepam, brand name Valium) may be required in some cases.”

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