Humane Society warns dog owners of distemper outbreak


A fox in Bolinas was one of six animals in Marin discovered with distemper, a virus that spreads easily and can be fatal for dogs and several wildlife species. The majority of the infected animals—three foxes and three racoons—were discovered over the hill, and all of them were euthanized. According to a joint press release from the Marin Humane Society and WildCare, residents should take several precautions, including reporting any animals that are exhibiting symptoms and keeping dogs on leash to prevent possible transmission; this type of distemper does not spread to cats. Symptoms include a lack of coordination or balance, seizures and discharge from the eyes and nose. “We are asking the public to be on alert for any wild animal exhibiting these symptoms, especially foxes, raccoons, coyotes and skunks,” the press release states. “Any animal exhibiting distemper symptoms needs immediate help.” Dog owners should take additional measures. Dogs must be vaccinated against distemper, and receive boosters every three years. The Humane Society is urging dog owners to keep their pets on leash for the time being to reduce possible transmission; the virus is easily spread by direct contact with a sick animal or its urine, feces or mucus. Although no dogs have been found in the county with distemper, the Humane Society believes the current outbreak likely originated in unvaccinated dogs. The last outbreak in Marin, which took place 12 years ago, decimated Marin’s gray fox populations. “We are lucky that in Marin, there’s a pretty high vaccination rate in pets so that’s why we may not be seeing any cases yet,” said Marin Humane spokeswoman Lisa Bloch. “Yet every fox and racoon has a role to play and we need to make sure that we keep them as healthy as possible.” If you see an animal in distress, call WildCare’s hotline at (415) 456.7283 or Marin Humane at (415) 883.4621.