Foothills of Angeles National Forest
In December 2007 an outbreak of sick and dying gray foxes was reported to Veterinary Public Health by the staff at the Monrovia Animal Control Department.
Over several months, Monrovia Animal Control had received reports of 11 dead or severely ill foxes. One fox found alive showed bizarre behavior, including repeated efforts to enter homes. A second fox found alive initially had a fever, depression, muscle spasms, and “knuckling over” of the back paws. The last fox to be found dead had heavy green eye discharge. One raccoon was also found dead in this time period, and may also have died from Distemper virus.
The California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory in San Bernardino performed a complete necropsy. A rabies test was conducted first and was found to be negative. Further testing then revealed evidence of Distemper virus in the brain and lungs.
Pasadena Humane Society also reported foxes with
similar signs of illness in the foothill areas of
Glendale and La Canada Flintridge.
In all, 34 sick or dead Gray Foxes were found in the
foothill areas between July 2007 and April 2008.
Foxes may be drawn to populated areas, and can be very persistent in their efforts to get to food. Easily accessible food, such as pet food left outdoors, may encourage a fox to frequently visit a property (even if there is a risk of a confrontation with a dog). A fox may contaminate food bowls with Distemper virus and pass the virus to dogs. Or a fox may catch the virus from a sick dog through contact with contaminated food bowls and surfaces.
This is a good reminder to keep all pet food indoors and to make sure all dogs a properly vaccinated against Distemper.
Cases of Distemper in dogs or wildlife in Los Angeles County should be reported to our department (see link below).
Report a Distemper case (Vaccine-preventable disease reporting form)
Map of suspected Distemper in Gray Foxes (June 2007-
Fox Distemper Flyer (December 2007)