What is Distemper?
Distemper is a highly contagious virus that causes widespread mortality among large raccoon populations. Raccoons are susceptible to both canine and feline distemper, though they are different viruses. Canine distemper usually appears as an upper respiratory infection and later develops into conjunctivitis (pink eye). Feline distemper is associated with high fever, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, and a severe decrease in white blood cells.
Chicago Raccoons With Distemper
Country officials have found a large amount of dead raccoons with canine distemper this spring, at 56%. This number exceeds the distemper numbers from Cook County’s epidemic, a decade ago, which was 46%. This huge increase is nothing short of an epidemic and pet owners should be wary. Raccoons make their homes anywhere, including urban areas, and distemper is not impervious to reaching city raccoons.
Signs of Raccoons with Distemper
Raccoons suffering canine distemper may be disoriented, wander in circles, suffer paralysis, and exhibit strange behavior as a result of brain damage. This behavior is similar to rabid raccoon behavior and often mistaken as rabies. Some liken the distempered raccoons to zombies. The raccoons are active during the daytime (though they are nocturnal) show little fear of humans, and exhibit bizarre, sleepy behavior.
Treatment & Prevention
There is no treatment that exists to remedy canine or feline distemper. Dogs can pick up distemper from infected raccoons even if they do not come in direct contact with the animals. They can contract distemper from airborne exposure and sharing food or water with other infected dogs. Humans are not at risk for distemper. The best method to minimize risk of distemper is through vaccination. Dogs that contract canine distemper can exhibit cold-like symptoms, lose appetite, have seizures, and catch pneumonia if left untreated. Vaccinate your pets immediately to prevent distemper infection.
Raccoons with distemper are usually euthanized.
If you discover a raccoon acting strangely, especially during the daytime, or a raccoon carcass on your property – call animal control services to remove the animal and protect your pets.