Distemper Outbreak in Toronto’s Wildlife
An outbreak of distemper has killed off hundreds of Toronto’s raccoons and skunks – and has put dogs at risk.
From the Toronto Star –
If you see a raccoon lying on a sidewalk in the middle of the day, call Toronto Animal Services – and keep your dog on a tight leash.
The animal is likely sick and dying, and could infect your pet with a lethal strain of distemper, an epidemic that has killed hundreds of raccoons and skunks in the GTA since May.
“It’s not transferable to humans but there is definitely a high risk to unvaccinated cats and dogs,” said Eletta Purdy, manager of Toronto Animal Services. “It’s not rabies but it kills quickly.”
Distemper is a highly contagious, highly lethal virus. The same virus affects dogs, skunks, ferrets, weasels, raccoons and possibly opossums.
It’s hugely irresponsible to not use the readily available, virtually risk free distemper vaccination to protect your pets from distemper. Prior to the invention of the canine distemper vaccine in the 1960’s, distemper ravaged thousands of kennels world wide, wiping out entire lines. A trip to the dog show could result in the death of all of a breeder’s puppies, and sometimes their older dogs, as well.
Advocates of no vaccinations often argue that it is only puppies with weak immune systems who develop viruses like distemper. They point to raw feeding and homeopathic remedies as a method to prevent and cure distemper. Raccoons and skunks are hardly surviving on a diet of take out food, and yet they still are highly susceptible to distemper.
The other argument made by no vaccine advocates is that their puppies only end up contracting distemper when they come into contact with other puppies which have received the distemper vaccine, and are ‘shedding’ the virus. Ignoring the fact that modern distemper vaccines are made from killed forms of the virus, it’s an incontrovertible fact that any puppy not living in a bubble stands a good chance of encountering a raccoon, a fox or a skunk, even in the most urban environment. Your dog doesn’t even have to have a face to face run in with a wild animal to become infected with distemper – it can be spread via feces of infected animals just as easily (and who among us hasn’t seen our dogs snuffling up something gross and unknown on our daily walks?).
Please, get your dogs and puppies vaccinated. It’s such a simple preventative, for such a horrible disease.
Distemper vaccines for dogs (at least here in the US) are modified live. They replicate in the body and shed like the live virus but do not cause disease. There used to be killed Distemper vaccines available but they were not always very effective and were taken off the market.
I live on the border with Mexico and Distemper is not uncommon here due to low rates of vaccination. I’ve seen a dog that got distemper as an adult and survived, blind, with permanent brain damage that causes her to run into things constantly. Horrible.