You may have spotted raccoons in your yard or in the street recently acting confused or “friendly”. Most of these raccoons are suffering from a very deadly virus called distemper. The raccoons should not be approached, and you should keep your pets and children away from them. A call to Dallas Animal Control at 311 is the most humane action to take. ** The raccoons are having an outbreak and it is impacting our local dog population.
Distemper virus is a deadly and highly contagious disease of dogs, coyotes, foxes, ferrets, raccoons and a few other species. It is spread by contact with respiratory secretions but can survive in the environment and direct contact between animals is not necessary. Symptoms usually include a respiratory tract infection that then leads to seizures, confusion, or other neurological symptoms. The survival rate of distemper is low, and there are no effective treatments for the primary virus.
We are seeing more cases of distemper in dogs this year. Raccoons do not respect property lines and are able to spread the virus from yard to yard. Your dog doesn’t have to “go anywhere” to be exposed to the virus. Limiting food sources in your backyard and securing your garbage / compost will reduce the temptation for raccoons to spend time in your yard.
Fortunately, there is a very effective vaccine for this deadly virus. Puppies should receive a vaccine for distemper every 3-4 weeks until 4 months of age, and adult dogs should be vaccinated for distemper every 1 to 3 years. Animals that have not completed their puppy vaccine series should be kept home and away from any potential sources of infection. Pet ferrets should also be vaccinated.
**A wild animal should never be approached – we also see rabies in North Texas which is deadly to people and can be carried by any mammal. If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, the bite should be reported by your medical provider to animal control so that appropriate measures to protect your health can be taken.