Both rabies and distemper are viral illnesses, according to a description provided by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Distemper affects many different domestic and wild carnivores, and it occurs in two forms: canine (affecting dogs) and feline (affecting cats); it cannot be transmitted from an animal to a human. Rabies, on the other hand, is capable of infecting a person through the bite of an infected animal. Rabies is almost always fatal in both animals and humans when left untreated.
Distemper can be deadly but animals can recover from the disease. And while humans cannot contract distemper, the potential for people to be bitten by an animal with the disease is elevated because of behavioral changes in affected animals.
In both rabies and distemper, signs of abnormal behavior and apparent lack of fear may be the only visible signs. Behavioral changes often include aggressiveness, disorientation, lack of alertness, convulsive movements of the head and paws, and aimless wandering. There may be evidence of diarrhea, labored breathing and an unkempt appearance to the fur. Weakness and emaciation have been associated with canine distemper, but often animals will be acutely affected yet appear in good nutritional condition.
If you see a wild or domestic animal exhibiting these signs, contact Animal Control. If you live in the city, call the Asheville Police Department at 252-1110. The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office is in charge of animal control for Buncombe County outside municipal limits. They can be reached at 250-6670.
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