The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management is urging dog owners in Rhode Island to vaccinate their pets against distemper.

Dog owners in several Rhode Island towns should be careful when out with their pets.

Warwick and Jamestown Police have issued alerts warning pet owners of a canine distemper outbreak.

And though the disease doesn't affect people, it can be deadly for dogs.

Canine distemper was found in a high number of raccoons and skunks in both Warwick and Jamestown recently, so dog owners are being reminded to get their pets' CDV vaccinations up-to-date.

Sadly distemper vaccine is not required by law in Rhode Island, so dog owners don't have to heed this warning. But they certainly should.

Distemper can be transmitted to your pet fairly easily.

Dogs that come in contact with affected wildlife or even their droppings out on a walk can pick up the virus through airborne exposure.

Dogs can then pass the illness to other dogs simply by sharing water or food bowls.

And again, the virus can be deadly.

Distemper causes respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous system issues in puppies and dogs. Infected animals often show symptoms of shaking, walking in circles and a loss of awareness of people approaching them.

If you see a wild animal showing these signs you should call DEM or local animal control right away.

If you see these signs in your own pet, immediately get them to the vet.

The vaccine is a dog owners' number one way of having some peace of mind here.

Other prevention tips are to keep all food and water bowls inside, avoid contact with wildlife and be extremely cautious in the amount of contact your dog has with other dogs from high-risk areas.

Keep those pets safe Rhode Island.

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