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Sanibel impacted by current raccoon distemper affecting region

By Staff | Feb 15, 2010

On Monday, the veterinarians at CROW Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on Sanibel have positively identified canine distemper in raccoons that have been brought in recently for treatment. The disease does not affect humans.

Canine distemper can infect unvaccinated dogs, foxes, coyotes, and skunks and is often fatal for wildlife. It severely weakens the animals and may cause them to appear disorientated and to wander aimlessly. Like all wild animals, even if they appear weak they can still become aggressive and bite if approached too closely. It is therefore unwise for the general public to try and help these animals directly if they are observed.

If a sick raccoon is observed, the city encourages residents to call CROW at 472-3644 for response and pickup of the affected animal.

Canine distemper is more likely to occur when raccoon populations are large or concentrated. City of Sanibel Natural Resource Department biologists note that canine distemper among the raccoon population repeats on the island in cycles of five to seven years. Not all raccoons get the disease and many typically do survive these outbreaks.

The disease is spread when animals have direct contact with body fluids or droppings from an infected animal. Distemper is always present in the environment, so the best prevention for dogs is to make sure they are vaccinated.

If unsure, pet owners may want to contact their vet to make sure their dog’s shots are current. Symptoms of distemper may include discharge from the nose and eyes, a rough coat of hair, emaciated appearance and unusual behavior such as disorientation or wandering aimlessly. The animal’s symptoms become progressively worse and the disease is usually fatal. Distemper is not the same disease as rabies, although some symptoms are similar.

For additional information, contact the City of Sanibel Department of Natural Resources at 472-3700.

Source: City of Sanibel