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Distemper and Dogs

Canine distemper is a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies and dogs.

The virus can also be found in wildlife such as foxes, wolves, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, mink and ferrets and has been reported in lions, tigers, leopards and other wild cats as well as seals.

How is canine distemper spread?

Puppies and dogs most often become infected through airborne exposure (through sneezing or coughing) to the virus from an infected dog or wild animal. The virus can also be transmitted by shared food and water bowls and equipment. Infected dogs can shed the virus for months, and mother dogs can pass the virus through the placenta to their puppies.

Because canine distemper also impacts wildlife populations, contact between wild animals and domestic dogs can facilitate the spread of the virus. Canine distemper outbreaks in local raccoon populations can signal increased risk for pet dogs in the area.

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