PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Pasco County is seeing a huge increase in distemper cases. The deadly disease is a huge problem for wildlife — in 2016, animal officials responded to 43 cases for the entire year. In 2017, that number went up drastically to 146 cases. And, for the first three months of 2018, they have already seen 260 cases.
Officials say they are seeing most of their cases in the New Port Richey and Port Richey area.
"It’s kind of rampant, I’m getting between 5 and 30 calls a week with raccoons and foxes and coyotes that have distemper," said Jeremy Ovitt, an animal rescue volunteer in Pasco County.
Distemper is a very contagious virus that can kill your dog or cat and even though the canine distemper vaccination isn't typically required, Ovitt says any responsible dog owner needs to get it.
"If you see firsthand and you come up on these animals and they're breathing like that, it would be a no-brainer. You would take one look at this and anyone that has half a heart would know right away that that’s what they need to do."
He took a video of a raccoon with distemper. He was struggling to breathe and unable to move. He and his son rescue all kinds of animals but sadly, these ones can't be helped.
"It’s terminal, there’s nothing you can do for them," he said.
After an infected flea bites an unvaccinated animal it can spread through their waste which is why experts say dog and cat owners need to pick up after their animal to keep it from spreading.
It can be hard to tell the difference between distemper and rabies — because the symptoms are similar.
"Distemper his respiratory, a lot of times it’s labored breathing, they are disoriented, you can walk right up to them, they have virtually no movement whatsoever," said Ovitt.
He says rabies can cause aggression and excessive saliva.
If you see an animal with this behavior call animal services.