Raccoons with distemper represent a concerning and challenging issue in both urban and natural environments. Distemper, caused by a viral infection, can have devastating effects on raccoon populations, leading to serious health problems and behavioral changes.
Understanding the implications of distemper in raccoons is crucial for both wildlife management and public safety.
In this discussion, we will delve into the causes, symptoms, transmission, and management of distemper in raccoons to shed light on this important wildlife health concern.
How Common Is Distemper in Raccoons
Distemper is common in raccoons, especially when their populations are large. The Canine Distemper Virus is generally always present in the raccoon population, but usually at low levels. The SPCA responds to approximately 50 to 100 cases of distemper in raccoons per month per district.
Cases of distemper in raccoons generally fluctuate throughout the year, but animal control services, the SPCA, and the local humane societies all report a spike in the number of cases occurring during the mid-winter and early spring.
Canine Distemper is common in the spring in raccoons, skunks, and foxes when animals emerge and become more active. Raccoons are predisposed to this disease, as are dogs.
Symptoms of Distemper in Raccoons
Symptoms of distemper in raccoons may include:
- Discharge from the nose and eyes
- A rough coat of hair
- Emaciated appearance
- Unusual behavior such as disorientation or aimless wandering
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive salivation
- Chewing fits
- Acting disoriented
- Glassy-eyed appearance
- Erratic wandering
- Matted or wet hair around the face
- High-pitched vocalization
Raccoons with distemper may move slowly, stumble as they walk, lose their fear of humans, appear blind, become confused, and may wander aimlessly. They may also become aggressive if cornered. A mucous discharge is often present around the eyes and nose and may be accompanied by coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, seizures, or chewing fits.
The visual signs that distinguish distemper from rabies in raccoons include the fact that a raccoon with rabies may act more aggressively, while a raccoon with distemper may appear aggressive but is actually more disoriented and less afraid of humans.
How Is Distemper Transmitted Within Raccoon Populations
Distemper in raccoons is caused by a virus that can be transmitted through direct contact with infected animals or their bodily fluids. The virus can also be spread through contact with contaminated objects or surfaces. Raccoons can acquire canine distemper, a viral disease that can infect foxes, coyotes, skunks, and unvaccinated dogs.
Dogs that are not vaccinated for distemper can become infected if they come into contact with a raccoon that has distemper. Canine distemper transmission in raccoons is generally spread from raccoon to raccoon within their natural habitat. The presence of the virus has become increasingly common, leading to its spread among raccoons in their natural habitat.
The distemper virus can also be transmitted from raccoons to dogs through direct contact.
During What Season Are Raccoons Most Susceptible to Contracting Distemper
Raccoons are most susceptible to contracting distemper during the spring and summer seasons when baby raccoons are being born. This vulnerability arises because young animals are more susceptible to the virus, and cases among wildlife increase during this time.
Canine distemper in raccoons typically starts slowly, initially manifesting as an upper respiratory infection with symptoms such as a runny nose and watery eyes, which can progress to conjunctivitis (the most visible symptoms). As time passes, the raccoon may develop pneumonia, become thin and debilitated, and exhibit diarrhea as a clear symptom.
The prevalence of canine distemper tends to be higher when raccoon populations are large.
Can You Save a Raccoon With Distemper
There is no treatment for distemper in raccoons, and infected raccoons are usually euthanized. Wildlife rehabilitators cannot treat canine distemper, and attempting any form of treatment for a raccoon is considered cruel, as the disease is painful and has a near-100% mortality rate even with weeks of intensive care.
The most effective way to prevent canine distemper in raccoons is by removing all potential food sources from your property. If you encounter a raccoon that you suspect has distemper, it’s important not to approach them, refrain from feeding them, and instead, contact the Citizens’ Service Bureau or animal control services. As a resourceful reference here’s our full guide “how to get rid of raccoons“.
To help reduce the spread of the canine distemper virus in raccoons, consider disinfecting your premises with a solution of 1 part bleach to 30 parts water.
Associated Risks of Touching a Raccoon Infected With Distemper
There are associated risks of touching a raccoon infected with distemper. These risks include:
- Contracting the virus through direct contact with infected animals or their bodily fluids.
- The virus can also be spread through contact with contaminated objects or surfaces.
- Raccoons with distemper may become aggressive if cornered, which can lead to bites or scratches.
- Anyone bitten or scratched by a raccoon must contact their physician immediately, as exposure to a rabies vector is possible.
- A high level of caution must be exercised when handling raccoons with distemper, as the disease can only be confirmed with testing.
It is best to avoid contact with raccoons displaying abnormal behavior and to call animal control services if you see a raccoon that you suspect has distemper.
Ensuring Your Protection From Distemper When Encountering Raccoons
To ensure protection from distemper when encountering raccoons, humans can take the following measures:
- Do not approach raccoons displaying abnormal behavior, such as wandering aimlessly, appearing blind or confused, or being aggressive.
- Do not feed raccoons, as this can attract them to your property and increase the risk of transmission.
- Ensure that your pets, especially dogs, are vaccinated against distemper to prevent them from contracting the virus and spreading it to other animals.
- If you see a raccoon that you suspect has distemper, contact animal control services or your local humane society to report it.
- If you are bitten or scratched by a raccoon, seek medical attention immediately, as exposure to a rabies vector is possible.
- Disinfect your property with a solution of 1 part bleach to 30 parts water to reduce the spread of the virus.
Can Raccoons Spread Distemper to Humans
Humans cannot contract distemper from raccoons. Canine distemper is a viral disease that affects animals in the families Canidae, Mustelidae, and Procyonidae, but it does not affect humans.
However, it is important to note that raccoons with distemper may become aggressive if cornered, which can lead to bites or scratches. Anyone bitten or scratched by a raccoon must contact their physician immediately, as exposure to a rabies vector is possible.
Therefore, it is best to avoid contact with raccoons displaying abnormal behavior and to call animal control services if you see a raccoon that you suspect has distemper.