Residents urged to vaccinate pets after cases of distemper found in Santa Barbara County

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara County Public Health officials are urging residents to vaccinate their pets after confirming multiple cases of distemper in wildlife, especially raccoons, throughout southern Santa Barbara County.

Canine distemper is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous system. Health officials say canine distemper doesn't pose a threat to humans but unvaccinated dogs can become infected.


Infected raccoons move slowly, stumble, and can appear blind and/or confused, according to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department. They may lose their fear of humans and can become very aggressive if cornered.

If you notice a raccoon or other wildlife behaving abnormally or acting sick, health officials advise you not approach the animal and call Santa Barbara County Animal Services at 805-681-5285 immediately. Anyone living within the City of Santa Barbara is asked to call Santa Barbara City Animal Control at 805-963-1513 to report wildlife acting abnormally.


Distemper is most commonly spread through coughing infected respiratory secretions but can also shed through most other bodily fluids like urine.

Santa Barbara County Health officials recommend residents take the following steps to protect your pet:

  1. Keep your dog on a leash
  2. Scan your yard before allowing your dog out
  3. Do not leave pet food outside that can attract wildlife

The cost of prevention is often much cheaper than the cost of treatment, so officials are urging the community to vaccinate their pets before it's too late. You may contact your veterinarian to set up an appointment. C.A.R.E. 4Paws is hosting a vaccine clinic at the Santa Barbara Eagles located at 923 Bath Street in Santa Barbara Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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