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Pet Owners Are Warned of Distemper Outbreak

March 26, 2004|Eric Malnic | Times Staff Writer

An outbreak of distemper in South Los Angeles has prompted city officials to remind pet owners that dogs should be vaccinated against the highly contagious and often fatal disease.

Jackie David, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Animal Services, said 22 stray dogs infected with the disease had been taken to the agency's south Los Angeles shelter at 3612 11th Ave. since September, about twice the normal number for a six-month period.

She said the disease did not affect humans, but posed a lethal threat to dogs, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, skunks and several other animals, both domestic and wild. Cats are not affected.

State law requires all dogs to be vaccinated against rabies, a disease that can be fatal to humans, before licensing. David said distemper vaccinations for dogs are recommended, but not mandatory.

Most pet dogs receive vaccinations for rabies, distemper and other diseases, David said. She said dog owners should check with their veterinarians to find out whether their pets are due for booster shots.

"Typically, the animals we see with distemper are stray dogs," David said. "But the disease, which is carried through the air, is highly contagious."

She said symptoms include fever, nasal and ocular discharge, depression and, ultimately, convulsions and death. She said that, if detected in time, the disease can be treated successfully.

David said the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn. provided low-cost vaccinations and booster shots at clinics throughout Los Angeles County. Information is available at (888) 4 LA-PET1 or www.laanimal

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