Cook County Urges Residents to Protect Pets from Distemper Virus

Cook County Animal and Rabies Control is advising pet owners to prepare and protect their pets from the distemper virus. The department has seen an increase in cases of confirmed canine distemper virus found in raccoons tested after displaying abnormal neurologic signs.

The distemper virus affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous system of dogs. Symptoms can include ocular and nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors and seizures. Death can occur from secondary pneumonia or non-responsive seizure activity.

The surveillance program for wildlife diseases in Cook County monitors rabies infection and other zoonotic diseases in wildlife and it also detects trends in diseases that can be spread to companion animals.

Cook County Animal and Rabies Control urges pet owners to vaccinate their dogs and all dogs should be supervised while outside, even in a fenced-in yard, to prevent contact with wild animals.

Precautions recommended by Animal and Rabies Control include:

  • Keep all pets vaccinated against core diseases and secure additional vaccines based on the animal’s lifestyle. See your veterinarian as to his/her recommendations for your pet. Some vaccines are required by law.
  • Pet owners should check if the places they take their pets for socialization – such as dog-friendly areas, training classes, grooming and boarding – require proof of vaccination. Communicable diseases are transmitted through close association with other animals. 
  • Make sure that your pet is vaccinated and that the pets involved are equally protected. Minimize social activities with your pets and pets of unknown vaccination or health history. 
  • Visit your veterinarian at least twice per year for health reviews including recommendations on vaccines and intestinal parasite checks. Animals that are most susceptible to the viruses are those that are immune-compromised by age or other illness.


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