Canine distemper outbreak: Raccoons (Quebec, Canada)
Provincial officials and vet clinics are cautioning dog owners about an outbreak of distemper among raccoons in the Eastern Passage area [Quebec], and reminding owners to take precautions.
The Eastern Passage Village Veterinary Clinic posted a message on its Facebook page early last week [21-27 Oct 2013] warning clients about several recent reports of raccoons with distemper in the area.
A Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist confirmed the localized outbreak had erupted in the middle of an otherwise quiet season.
“Last year  was really bad, but this year, we weren’t noticing anything…until just recently,” said Shavonne Meyer Thursday [24 Oct 2013]. “We were starting to get more reports out Eastern Passage way.”
Canine distemper is a highly contagious virus that spreads through bodily secretions, including saliva, feces, and urine. Meyer said it’s not uncommon to see localized outbreaks in the raccoon population every year.
“It can affect foxes, coyotes, skunks, other animals,” she said. “Raccoons are most vulnerable to it because…they congregate together and it’s passed from one to another.”
The virus doesn’t affect domestic cats or humans, but if a pet dog is exposed, the virus causes eye and nose discharge, fever, loss of appetite, and eventually neurological symptoms. There’s no cure for the virus itself, but Meyer said dog owners can take steps to protect their pets.
“Just have your pets vaccinated, keep control of your pet, so it’s not eating other animals’ waste, or coming in direct contact with a raccoon,” she said.
The virus doesn’t make animals hostile or aggressive, as the rabies virus would, but Meyer said anyone who sees a raccoon with suspected distemper should call the department immediately.