Wildlife Officials Urge Pet Owners To Vaccinate For Distemper After Fox Tests Positive

Apr 1, 2016

Vermont's Department of Fish and Wildlife is warning people about a potentially growing outbreak of canine distemper among wild animals in central Vermont.

So far, just one gray fox has tested positive for canine distemper, says Kim Royar, special assistant to the commissioner. But she says 14 foxes have been turned into the department for "behaving in a weird way" that the department associates with distemper.

"We just got a video from one of our field wardens," Royar explains, "of an animal, and [the animal] sort of puts his nose in the air and snaps at the air, puts his neck way back, which I think is all part of this distemper."

Infected animals might also have discharge out of their eyes or noses, convulsions or paralysis, she says. 

And it's not just gray foxes: The department has now also found skunks and raccoons behaving strangely in central Vermont, mainly around Barre and Montpelier says Royar. 

People cannot contract canine distemper. But Royar cautions that their pets can.

"Pet owners should make sure that their dogs, in particular, are vaccinated, but I would vaccinate dogs and cats, both," she said.

"Pet owners should make sure that their dogs, in particular, are vaccinated, but I would vaccinate dogs and cats, both." — Kim Royar, special assistant to the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife

Federal wildlife officials have also tested a handful of animals for rabies. But so far, all those tests have come back negative. Vermont officials believe the outbreak is restricted to canine distemper only.

Royar encourages people who see a wild animal showing possible symptoms to keep a safe distance, and to call 1-800-4-RABIES.