What is Distemper?

Distemper is an infectious disease caused by a virus that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of dogs and some wild animals like skunks, coyotes, foxes, and raccoons. There is a higher probability of this disease being transmitted to raccoons.

Raccoon Distemper

Raccoons have an elevated susceptibility to infection from both canine and feline distemper. It is heartbreaking to know that distemper is the second leading cause of death in raccoons, after humans.

Although both can lead to serious sickness and even death, it is important to note that these illnesses are caused by two totally separate viruses.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a very serious virus that can spread quickly and impacts members of the Canidae, Mustelidae, and Procyonidae families.

Sadly, this disease may become even more prevalent when raccoon populations are large.

Can my dog catch canine distemper?

Is your dog vaccinated against distemper?

If not and your pet is exposed to a raccoon population with distemper, they can be at high risk. Most dogs are vaccinated with the initial shot and additional booster shots as puppies, but if you have any doubts about the status of your pet’s vaccinations, consulting your veterinarian is suggested.

Feline Distemper

Feline distemper often referred to as ‘cat fever’ is a highly contagious virus that can affect cats, ferrets and raccoons.

Canine distemper confirmed in raccoons in Weld County – Greeley Tribune

How is it Transferred?

Distemper can be transmitted through inhaling contaminated matter, including direct contact with raccoon excreta, aerosolized droplets, and bodily fluids (e.g., saliva).

The incubation period of this virus is approximately 622 days. It has been observed to survive for several weeks in cooler, darker environments, yet its existence may be limited to only a few hours in temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius.

Signs and Symptoms of Distemper

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Mucus discharge from the eyes and nose 
  • Unsteady or uncoordinated movements (wandering aimlessly, falling over or circling)
  • Eyes appear to have a greenish hue
  • Ruffled or unkempt fur 
  • Seizures
  • Foaming at the mouth 
  • Disorientation
  • Decrease in assertiveness
  • Loss of aggression 
  • An inclination to approach people
  • Sleep in an open area
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

What Can I do to Help the Raccoons?

Once a raccoon is exposed to the disease, it is unfortunately very difficult for them to survive. The virus can take several weeks to finish its cycle in the raccoon, and unfortunately, young raccoons are especially vulnerable to it.

In order to ensure the most humane solution for an infected animal, it is advisable to get in touch with a professional wildlife removal company. This will help to guarantee that the animal is not subjected to further distress, and also prevent the spread of the infection.

Is It Okay to Feed the Raccoons?

Don’t go feeding raccoons – not just because it’s not good for them but because it’s inviting the other wildlife over to your place. You’ll be dealing with more than just one raccoon, plus your pets won’t like them lurking around either. If you spot any sick raccoon with distemper better call animal removal.

Treatment and vaccination

Unfortunately, there’s currently no treatment for either canine or feline distemper, which means it’s even more important to take steps to prevent and control it.

If a raccoon has been found with distemper sadly there is not much that can be done, as they cannot be treated or vaccinated. The kindest (and only) course of action, in this case, would be to have the raccoon euthanized.

Infected raccoons deserve humane euthanasia in order to end their suffering. If the raccoon is not euthanized, it may experience more pain and distress, and could even spread the disease to other animals and cause disruption to their homes.

Control of Distemper Outbreaks

To manage outbreaks of distemper, it is important to take away the dead animals, vaccinate domestic species that could be at risk, and bring down wildlife numbers to reduce the number of possible hosts.

To reduce the spread of canine distemper virus in raccoons, try disinfecting your premise with a solution of 1:30 parts bleach. Don’t forget, the virus can also be inactivated using heat, formalin, and Roccal R.

Three raccoons test positive for canine distemper | News | state-journal.com

While it can be heartbreaking, sometimes euthanizing is the only humane thing. It’s important to remember that we are taking care of our beloved pets and sometimes this is the kindest decision we can make.

How do I Prevent Raccoons with Distemper from Coming onto My Property?

To prevent raccoons, skunks, and other wildlife animals from coming onto your property:

Do Not Leave Any Food Out

Right now, to discourage raccoons or foxes from coming around, it’s a good idea to remove any bird feeders or keep the area clean by tidying up frequently near the bird feeder.

Secure the Garbage

Be sure to make sure all your garbage, recycling, and GreenCarts are securely closed and left out for regular pick up on your scheduled collection.

Secure Your Pets

When taking your pet (e.g dogs) for a walk, be sure to use a leash, and it’s always a good idea to take a look around your yard before you let your pet out to play.

Secure Your Children:

It is important to educate your children that they should not approach raccoons or any other wildlife, even if they seem friendly.

Wild animals may appear to be docile, but it is important to remember that they can be unpredictable and may be carrying extremely contagious diseases which can be fatal.

Vaccinate Your Pets

It is recommended to consult veterinarians to confirm that your dog has received vaccination against distemper if there is any uncertainty. The distemper cases are likely to cause permanent neurological damage.

Watch for sick raccoons: Distemper can cause major problems for wild and  domestic animals | Waterline | yoursun.com

What Else Can Be Done?

  • Make sure not to keep or treat raccoons as pets.
  • Ensure that bird feeders are designed to be spill-proof and inaccessible to raccoons.
  • Ensure that garbage is stored in containers with secure lids that fasten tightly shut.
  • Sandboxes should be covered to avoid using as latrines by raccoons.
  • It is recommended that measures be taken to eliminate sources of drinking water available such as standing pools of water for raccoons and other wild animals like aggressive coyotes.
  • Ensure that all entries to your residence and surrounding structures, including cellars, lofts, and cabins, are securely sealed.

Reports of distemper in Louisiana raccoons on the rise

Who Can I Call for a Raccoon that Has Distemper?

If you find a raccoon that is injured, disoriented, lethargic, or has any of the other distemper symptoms, the best way to get help is to call your local animal control department. They will be able to help you get the raccoon humanely taken care of, and may even have vaccines or medications they can use to help prevent the spread of the disease.

Image result for raccoon distemper

Wrapping Up

A raccoon that appears to wander aimlessly or is disoriented, lethargic, or uncoordinated, may have distemper. It is a very contagious disease and there is no treatment to till date. It is wise to humanely euthanize the animal to end its suffering. If you see a raccoon that has been in contact with a sick raccoon or its waste, call the local humane society to report the sighting.