Calling it a critical animal health situation, Long Beach Animal Care Services warned the public Thursday of a distemper outbreak that has affected at least 38 raccoons and at least one skunk, primarily in the eastern area of the city.

Puppies and unvaccinated dogs are at the highest risk of infection for the distemper virus, which can be transmitted through direct contact with a sick animal or from being near an infected animal when it is coughing or sneezing, or through shared food and water bowls or other objects that were contaminated by an infected animal, according to the agency.

Pet owners are urged to vaccinate dogs for distemper, keep puppies at home and away from unfamiliar dogs until they have completed the vaccination series; use caution when socializing dogs or in areas where dogs congregate, such as dog parks, doggy day care and boarding facilities; keep dogs away from wildlife; and keep pet food and water indoors.

Preventing the disease in dogs is crucial since there is currently no treatment for distemper. The virus does not cause disease in humans or cats.

Common clinical signs of distemper in dogs include discharge from the eyes and/or nose, fever, coughing, lethargy, disorientation, tremors and seizures, with similar clinical signs in raccoons and other wildlife.

Residents are urged to report suspected distemper cases to the Long Beach Veterinary Disease Reporting System at longbeach.gov/vdrs to allow for local data collection and sharing with Los Angeles County.

More information about distemper and a history of distemper outbreaks in animals in Los Angeles County is available at: publichealth.lacounty.gov/vet/distemper.htm.

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