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DNR: Uptick in Distemper Cases in Wisconsin

Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources say there’s been a rise in reports of canine distemper.

Distemper is a contagious disease that can be spread by direct contact with infected urine, feces, blood or saliva, and is commonly found in raccoons, gray foxes and skunks, but can infect dogs and ferrets. The disease affects an animal’s central nervous system, causing them to behave abnormally, stumble, cough and discharge fluid from their nose and eyes and often lose their fear of humans. Lindsey Long is a wildlife veterinarian and says the disease does not affect humans, but says people should keep pets indoors or under control when outdoors…

“…What we suggest: if you feed or water a dog or cat outside, making sure you take the food inside to minimize the amount of wild animals coming to a location. Make sure your trash has good containers so that raccoons don’t get into your trash all the time and come into contact with each other that way.”

Long says pet owners can best protect their dogs by making sure their vaccines are up-to-date. She says pet owners should also make sure their animals are leaving sick and dead wildlife alone…

“…If they have any contact with an animal or get bitten with an infected animal they need to call their county health department. If it’s a dog or a cat that gets in a scrimmage with one, they need to call the Department of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection, but otherwise if they just see these animals, they need to report them to the Wisconsin biologist.”

Long says it’s common for the DNR to receive reports of raccoons with the virus. She says canine distemper has been identified in raccoons, gray foxes and skunks in Vilas, Kenosha and Racine counties, while examination and testing of animals collected from Ashland, Oneida, Portage and Adams counties are still pending. For more information visit the DNR’s website

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