By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says there’s been a rise in reports of canine distemper, a disease in wild mammals that can affect dogs.

Cases of distemper have been confirmed in dogs in Olmsted and Yellow Medicine counties. There’s also been reports of sick raccoons in other south-central Minnesota counties.

Distemper is a highly contagious disease that can be spread through the air or by direct contact with infected urine, feces, blood or saliva. It can be found in wild animals such as raccoons, foxes, wolves, and skunks.

The disease affects an animal’s central nervous system, causing them to behave abnormally, stumble, cough, and discharge fluid from their nose and eyes. Infected animals often lose their fear of humans.

The disease does not affect humans.

DNR officials say pet owners can best protect their dogs by making sure their pets are current on vaccines. Pet owners should also make sure their dogs are leaving sick and dead wildlife alone.

If disposal of a dead raccoon is necessary, the carcass can be buried on the spot or picked up in a plastic bag and tossed in the garbage.

Some communities might have an animal control officer who can assist with the disposal of dead animals. The DNR, however, say it does not offer such services.

“We get these calls every year but it’s not often this early in the season,” said Dr. Joni Scheftel, State Public Health Veterinarian. “It’s usually in mid-summer.”

Dr. Scheftel said it’s rare that a dog survives canine distemper which is why she said getting dogs vaccinated is crucial.

“Once dogs are vaccinated, they don’t get distemper,” she said.

Dog owner Greta Deane and her puppy Clementine love exploring the outdoors.

“I really enjoy being outside and I want her to experience that and enjoy that as well and not be cooped up in the house,” she said.

Unfortunately, Clementine recently bit off more than she could chew when Deane said the dog contracted two parasites from eating rabbit droppings. It happened right before the dog was scheduled to get the necessary vaccines. The recent canine distemper cases only confirmed to Deane why getting updated shots is important.

“Any vaccine that is in anyway beneficial to (Clementine), preventing any potential incident or disease or illness or whatever, I want her to get,” said Deane.

Although canine distemper has similar symptoms to rabies, Dr. Scheftel said there hasn’t been a case of rabies in a raccoon in Minnesota in more than 20 years. She said rabies is usually found in skunks in the state.

Dr. Scheftel added that if someone finds a dead raccoon on their property they can bury it or put on gloves, double bag the animal, then put it in the trash.

For more information on canine distemper, click here.



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