Dog owners in Fresno County are being warned to watch out for distemper, a highly contagious virus that attacks the lungs, stomach and nervous system of dogs.
More cases of canine distemper virus are being reported in the county, public health officials said Wednesday afternoon.
"We're seeing a number of dogs coming in off the streets with it," said Brenda Mitchell, board president of Fresno Humane Animal Services. Many of the cases have been in western Fresno County, but the most recent dog was from Dinuba in Tulare County, she said. "It's kind of bouncing all over."
Canine distemper does not pose a health threat to people, but unvaccinated dogs can become infected and the virus can be deadly. Not every dog will die of distemper, but a dog can be contagious for up to four months with no symptoms, Mitchell said.
The virus is spread by dogs through coughing, but also can be spread through their urine. Dogs that are sick often move slowly, stumble and can appear blind and confused. The virus can be transferred to coyotes, foxes and raccoons, Mitchell said. And wild animals can lose their fear of humans and can be aggressive if cornered.
People should not approach or try to handle an animal that is acting sick, health officials said. Fresno Humane Animal Services should be contacted at 559-600-7387 about sick animals in the county. In the city of Fresno, report sick animals to the Central California SPCA at 559-233-7722. In Clovis, contact Clovis Animal Control at 559-324-2450.
Pet owners can protect their pets from contracting distemper by vaccinating them yearly. Fresno Humane Animal Services offers the vaccine for $5. "It's a cheap, easy fix that people can provide for their pets," Mitchell said.
The low-cost vaccinations are available for people living in the unincorporated areas of the county at Fresno Humane Animal Services, 760 W. Nielsen Ave., in Fresno.