NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

April 12, 2013

Paw Prints: Protect against canine distemper

If you live with a dog or cat, you’ve probably heard of distemper. It’s a cause for myths and beliefs, facts and fiction, tales and tails that prevail in the pet-owning world.

What you may not know is that there is currently a canine distemper outbreak in our area. For Fido’s sake, now is a good time for a refresher course so that you may protect your pooch in the weeks and months ahead.

To help differentiate distemper tales from true de-tails, here’s a list of commonly asked questions and answers.

Does distemper have anything to do with my pet’s temperament?

This is a common misperception. Distemper is caused by a virus, and it has nothing to do with your pet’s everyday temperament.

Vaccinating a cat or dog against distemper will not change his behavior. It will not make a good dog become naughty or a disobedient dog become well-mannered.

Can dogs and cats pass distemper to one other?

Fortunately, no. Canine distemper is unrelated to feline distemper, so Fido and Fluffy cannot pass the virus one another.

Recent news stories warn about canine distemper in our area. Can other pets be affected?

Although canine distemper can infect a variety of animals, the susceptible pet population is limited to dogs and ferrets.

What other species can be infected?

Canine distemper can infect other wild canids, including foxes and coyotes. Raccoons and skunks are susceptible, too.

Wildlife serve as the viral sentinel, keeping the disease endemic in our area. Despite widespread vaccination of pets, canine distemper is active in wild animals that live in our neighborhoods and encounter our dogs. A sick raccoon can wander into your yard and infect the new puppy you recently adopted.

Word of warning — an abnormally behaving raccoon in your yard may have distemper or rabies. So keep your distance and call animal control.

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