Raccoon-carried disease that can infect dogs on the rise

- Reported cases of a disease in raccoons that can infect dogs are on the rise, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Canine distemper can be spread through the air or by direct contact with urine, feces, blood or saliva.

Cases of canine distemper have been confirmed in Olmsted County and Yellow Medicine County and sick raccoons also have been reported in Dodge, Winona and Kandiyohi counties, according to the Minnesota DNR and Minnesota Department of Health.

A few cases of canine distemper are reported every year in Minnesota, but there appears to be a rise in reports this year, according to the DNR. Other states, including Tennessee, Virginia and Texas, have also reported increased cases of canine distemper virus in raccoons and foxes this year.

Canine distemper virus does not affect humans, but distemper in animals can look like rabies, according to the health department.

Advice for pet owners

Pet owners should make sure their dogs are current on all vaccines, particularly canine distemper. 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.

How to dispose of dead wildlife

People should stay away from sick raccoons and dead wildlife should be left alone. 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 cities may have an animal control officer who can assist, and Minneapolis residents can call 311.

Effects of canine distemper

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. Visit bit.ly/CanineDistemper for more information.

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