Kansas State University’s Veterinary Health Center issued a warning this week for dog owners to be on the lookout for raccoons, especially those showing up during the daytime.
The center said it has seen a large number of raccoons in the clinic recently suffering from canine distemper, which can pose a health risk to dogs.
“While we may see raccoons on a fairly regular basis, there seems to be a recent uptick in cases,” James Carpenter, professor of exotic pet, wildlife and zoological medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine, said in a news release from K-State. “The raccoons are often found out during the day, showing abnormal behavior such as incoordination, difficulty in walking and aimless wandering.”
Canine distemper is a highly contagious viral disease, according to the center, and can spread from raccoons to susceptible dogs.
“They either are just sitting back or some of them can be aggressive,” said George Sears, animal control officer for the city of Manhattan, in the release. “Or they’ll walk for a couple of feet, then they stumble, they fall down and sit right back up, giving us what’s called the ‘thousand-yard stare’ — like they’re staring out into nothing. That’s when we usually apprehend them.”
Sears said that, since August, about two to three raccoons per week have been picked up in Manhattan.
“When an outbreak occurs in a raccoon population, the highest incidence is generally in late summer,” Carpenter said. “The young are leaving their mothers and have more opportunity for exposure to other wild animals that are distemper-infected.”
Carpenter said it is important for dogs to be vaccinated against the disease beginning at 6 weeks of ages, and then every three to four weeks until they are 18 to 20 weeks old. After that time frame, vaccinations should be done once every one to three years, depending on the veterinarian’s recommendations. The center also advises that dogs not be allowed to roam free and come into contact with wild raccoons.
Raccoons also have the potential to carry many other diseases, including rabies. Any raccoon acting abnormally should be reported to the local animal control office.
Because rabies and canine distemper show similar symptoms, the public shouldn’t attempt to capture or handle the animals.
“We try to deter the public from making any kind of engagement with the raccoons,” Sears said. “We encourage them to call animal control. That way we can take proper precautions, and then we can take them away from the area. It’s a safety issue.”
For more information, contact the center at (785) 532-5690.