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Cities Warning About Deadly Distemper Outbreak

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Brian New
Brian joined the CBS 11 News team in 2013 after working a...
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ALLEN (CBSDFW.COM) - North Texas cities are warning pet owners about a potential deadly outbreak of distemper.

Distemper is a viral disease that most often affects dogs, ferrets, and raccoons.

Since the first of the year, Plano animal service officers have picked up 70 raccoons with the deadly virus.

Just this month, 14 infected raccoons in Allen have been discovered.

Allen Animal Control Supervisor Allison Harper said that’s an unusually high amount.

“Prior in my experience of animal control, about four years of experience, I have seen one or two with distemper in that time. So obviously this is an extreme amount.”

Animal officials say symptoms include coughing, running noise, discharge in the eyes, and seizures and partial paralysis in later stages.

While many veterinarians say little can be done to save a dog once it’s infected, Dr. Alan Ward at the Plano Animal Clinic said he’s come up with a treatment program that’s proven successful in 80% of his patients.

“An ultra-low dose of synthetic human interferon is the corner stone of it,” said Dr. Ward. “If this doesn’t work, the pet is probably not going to survive.”

Dr. Ward said he’s successfully treated four dogs with distemper just in the past couple weeks.

However, the Plano veterinarian said it is far better to prevent to disease through vaccinations.

Harper said what concerns her the most about this outbreak is distemper usually doesn’t peak until the spring.