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Living with Wildlife and Canine Distemper in Hernando County

Wildlife on our properties can be a double-edged sword.

Everyone likes songbirds, butterflies and bunny rabbits, and we should all take steps to protect their numbers as the county grows in population. But snakes, coyotes and other wildlife that can carry diseases are another matter. It seems that everyone is terrified of snakes. And coyotes can be very unnerving the first time you see one standing in the middle of your subdivision’s street.

A recent problem that everyone, especially pet owners, should be aware of is the detection of several racoons in Pasco and Hernando Counties that tested positive for the highly contagious canine distemper virus. Canine distemper outbreaks in local raccoon or other wild animal populations can signal increased risk for pet dogs in the area.

Veterinarians diagnose canine distemper through clinical appearance and laboratory testing. There is no cure for canine distemper infection and many of the potential animal carriers of this disease, including racoons, skunks, coyotes and foxes, live here in Hernando County, often in the most urban neighborhoods.

Puppies and dogs most often become infected with this virus through airborne exposure from an infected dog or wild animal. Shared food and water bowls and equipment can also transmit the virus. Contact between wild animals and domestic dogs can facilitate the spread of the virus.


“To avoid unwanted encounters with wildlife that may carry disease, proper waste disposal and limiting access to food and water sources is very important. Keep all pet food/bowls indoors, if you must feed outdoors allow your pet to eat and discard anything un-eaten. Clean up fallen fruit from trees or any other natural food sources in your yard. Trash should be kept securely inside an animal resistant can, either a metal container or a sturdy container with a latching lid.” advises Gina Long from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The vaccine to prevent canine distemper is extremely effective in preventing the disease in your dog. It is always recommended to keep your pet up-to-date on their vaccinations, and if your dog has not been vaccinated against canine distemper you would want to schedule that appointment with your vet now.


More information about living with wildlife in your landscape, or dealing with nuisance wildlife can be found as a series of fact sheets from the University of Florida at: