PETAL, MS (WDAM) - The City of Petal is warning residents to protect your pets from the deadly distemper disease after possibly infected raccoons have been found in the city.
Petal Police animal control unit said they want you to be aware of the viral disease being spread that could affect your domesticated animals.
"Real lethargic, they cannot keep their coordination and they will fall over themselves," Officer Rick Varner said. "Their eyes could be matted."
These are symptoms mirroring the viral disease distemper. Animals with this illness suffer from neurological, respiratory and GI complications. In the past two weeks, Varner has spotted four sick raccoons in the middle of the day. These animals are strictly nocturnal.
"Based on my experience and training, it looks like it might be distemper at this time," Varner said. "Every one had the same symptoms of distemper."
The cases will have to be confirmed by a veterinarian. We caught up with Petal Animal Clinic Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine Nate Moseley, who said this viral illness can spread to your domesticated animals.
"It's either through aerosol, which is most common, so breathing it in through nasal passages or through the mouth," Moseley said "Or either through secretions, like salivary gland secretions and things like that."
The most common transmission to your pet can be avoided.
"They normally get it from eating from a food bowl where a wild raccoon will come up and eat in their food bowl," Moseley said. "The saliva goes into the food, the dog turns around and eats it and they get exposure."
Distemper has a high mortality rate. Protect your pets by getting yearly vaccinations for preventative measures and most importantly, pick up food and water bowls from outside to stop the transmission.
"Those animals that have distemper that feed out of those bowls, your pet could get it, so that's what we are trying to avoid right now," Varner said.
If you spot a raccoon you believe has distemper, call your local police department and let animal control know. If you think your domesticated animal is suffering, take them to the vet.
Here's more tips to prevent distemper:
1. A series of vaccinations is administered to puppies to increase the likelihood of building immunity when the immune system has not yet fully matured.
2. Avoid gaps in the immunization schedule and make sure distemper vaccinations are up to date.
3. Avoid contact with infected animals and wildlife
4. Use caution when socializing puppies or unvaccinated dogs at parks, puppy classes, obedience classes, doggy day care and other places where dogs can congregate.
5. Pet ferrets should be vaccinated against canine distemper using a USDA-approved ferret vaccine.
All dogs are at risk of distemper, but those under the age of four months and ones without their vaccine are more susceptible to the disease