MN dogs being sickened by raccoons

ST. PAUL, Minn. - There has been an uptick in reports of canine distemper impacting dogs across Minnesota, and the source of the disease isn't what you'd think.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says cases of canine distemper passed from raccoons to dogs have been confirmed in Olmsted and Yellow Medicine counties, and sick raccoons also have been reported in Dodge, Winona and Kandiyohi counties.

“The canine distemper virus is found throughout the state and a few cases are reported every year, but there seems to be a rise in reports this year,” said Dr. Michelle Carstensen, wildlife health supervisor for DNR.

Canine distemper virus affects the central nervous system of mammals such as raccoons, foxes, wolves and skunks. Infected animals behave abnormally, losing their fear of humans, stumbling, shaking and can appear to be overly friendly. Other symptoms include sneezing, coughing and discharge from the eyes and nose.

The disease can be spread through the air or by direct contact with urine, feces, blood or saliva. DNR officials say taking precautions can lessen the chances of your pet contracting this devastating disease. 

“Canine distemper virus does not affect humans,” said Dr. Joni Scheftel, state public health veterinarian at MDH. “However, distemper in animals can look like rabies, so it is important to stay away from sick wildlife.”

Pet owners should ensure dogs are current on vaccines. Anyone unsure if their dogs are current on canine distemper vaccine should talk with their veterinarian about the vaccination status of their pets.

Pets should also be kept away from sick or dead wildlife. If disposal is necessary, the animal can be buried where it is found or picked up with a plastic garbage bag using gloves and placed in the garbage. Some municipalities may have an animal control officer who can assist. The DNR and the MDH do not provide animal removal services.

Other states – including Tennessee, Virginia and Texas – also have reported increased cases of canine distemper virus in raccoons and foxes this year.


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