Reporting Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A dangerous virus is spreading around the raccoon population and it’s prompting warnings in the Twin Cities.
The animals are suffering from canine distemper. In some cases it looks like they are having seizures. In others, they’re moving very slowly.
Both Cottage Grove and Edina have issued warnings about the sick animals and the danger they present to pets. Raccoons with distemper are often brought to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville.
While the center treats most wild animals, the raccoons with distemper are euthanized because there is no cure. Animal control officers advise you not to feed your pets outside, or if you do, bring in food bowls immediately.
In dogs the disease can take the same course as it does in raccoons, first resulting in nausea and vomiting, then lack of coordination and muscle spasms, and there is no cure.
“It is very contagious. Any close contact and the dog could pick up the virus. Once they inhale, it gets into their lymphatic system and starts to replicate,” said Veterinarian Dr. Craig Turino.
Fortunately cases of canine distemper in dogs are relatively rare because most pet owners, like Dr. Simon Rosser, who we found playing with Lily Mae, make sure their dogs get the $25 canine distemper vaccine every three years.
“I think in this economic climate people are hurting for money and so people are thinking about it but then you think about your dog dying and it’s not worth it,” said Rosser.
Animal control experts said the dead or sick raccoons are being found in homes near wooded areas, and they said avoid attracting raccoons by not feeding them or your own pets outside and making sure your garbage is secure.
Humans and cats are immune to the virus.