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Warning for dog owners: Increase in wild animals with distemper in Santa Barbara Co.

Posted at 11:16 AM, Mar 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 14:16:22-05

Santa Barbara County Animal Services is warning pet owners about an increase in wildlife with distemper.

Canine distemper is not a threat to people, but unvaccinated dogs can become infected. The disease, which is caused by a virus, is highly contagious and attacks an animal's respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems.

Animal Services says it has identified multiple cases of distemper in wildlife throughout the county, especially in northern parts of the county. Coyotes, foxes, and raccoons with distemper have been located in heavily populated areas.

Officials say infected wildlife may move slowly, stumble, and appear blind or confused. They may not be afraid of people and can become aggressive.

Distemper is spread through bodily secretions. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says one way dogs can contract the disease is through contact with food or water bowls that infected wildlife can access.

Pet owners are advised against leaving pet food outside so as not to attract wild animals.

In February, Fish and Wildlife reported a higher than usual number of canine distemper virus cases in wildlife throughout the state.

If you notice any wild animals that appear to be sick or that are behaving abnormally, call your county's animal services department:

  • Santa Barbara County Animal Services - (805) 934-6119
  • San Luis Obispo County Animal Services - (805) 781-4400