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MIAMI(CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade dog and cat owners are being urged to make sure their pets are up to date on their rabies and distemper vaccinations after the county’s Animal Services department confirmed that a raccoon died of canine distemper at Tropical Park.

Distemper is a highly contagious often fatal viral infection that affects animal nervous systems.

“Mainly spreads through urine of the animals or nasal discharge–the droplets when they sneeze,” said Alejandra Duran, a vet with Miami-Dade Animal Services.

Dogs and cats should be vaccinated against distemper annually.

“Keeping our pets’ vaccinations current is an important step to ensure their health and prevent outbreaks that can threaten the lives of our community’s pets and wildlife,” said Alex Muñoz, Director of Miami-Dade County Animal Services Department.

Unvaccinated dogs and cats are at risk of infection from, and pose a risk of infection to, raccoons and other wildlife. Distemper poses no risk to humans.

“As long as you have your pets vaccinated, mainly the dogs, you should not have problems,” said Duran.

Symptoms of distemper include nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, dry eyes, ulcers, lack of coordination, seizures, ataxia and blindness.

In an effort to prevent this disease from spreading, county employees will closely monitor and enforce laws against the abandoning dogs or cats at the parks. Violators are subject to fines of up to $5,000. In addition, anyone found feeding a domestic or wild animal at a park will be fined up to $200 per violation.

Low cost vaccinations are available at Miami-Dade County Animal Services.

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