When raccoons move into our urban environment, raccoon disease is often a topic of concern.
Vacant buildings provide a great habitat. Plus, an endless supply of food from local dumpsters have allowed this woodland creature to adapt into an animal that thrives within our city or residential environment.
Although they may appear cute and cuddly, a raccoon can become very aggressive when cornered or trapped.
Bites or scratches to humans or pets from an infected raccoon can spread dangerous or even deadly diseases.
Pets, especially dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors after dark, may have an encounter with an infected raccoon and be bitten or scratched.
When a dog corners a raccoon, the raccoon will commonly lay on its back and wait for the dog to attack. When close enough, the raccoon will wrap itself around the dogs face biting and scratching, causing injury to the dog until it has the opportunity to climb a tree or escape.
Raccoon feces and urine can also transmit raccoon disease. Pets and children who play outside on the ground can have an increased exposure to contaminated areas.
In the United States, raccoons are the most frequently reported animal species with rabies. Rabies is a viral disease commonly transmitted through the bite of an infected animal.
The virus causes damage to the central nervous system and without treatment can lead to brain damage and death. Vaccines are available to protect humans, however, the vaccine must be administered shortly after exposure which is why all encounters with a raccoon should be reported to your local health department.
Raccoons that are infected with rabies can appear confused, sick and disoriented. They may experience a lack of coordination, walk in circles and be foaming at the mouth. Since raccoons are typically nocturnal animals, a sick looking raccoon seen stumbling around throughout the day should be alarming.
Remember, encountering a raccoon with rabies is rare. Not every raccoon has the disease, however, if you're bitten or scratched by a raccoon you should immediately contact a health care professional. Also, make sure your pets are current on their vaccinations to protect them as well.
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by leptospirosis bacteria which can be transmitted through the urine of an infected raccoon.
The bacteria is commonly spread when the urine mixes with water. The contaminated water is then swallowed or it comes in contact with your skin, eyes or mouth.
Dogs who spend a lot of time outside are at a higher risk of exposure due to their desire to drink from small puddles and ponds which may be contaminated with the leptospirosis bacteria.
Symptoms of leptospirosis may included fever, sever headaches, vomiting, diarrhea and kidney or liver failure.
Raccoons can transmit raccoon roundworm through their feces. The droppings contain small, lightweight baylisascaris eggs that can be ingested or even inhaled by humans if the small eggs become airborne.
The egg spores have been known to live for years as dry pods posing a risk to humans who have raccoons living in their attic. If left untreated the droppings can add up over time creating a serious problem.
Once the eggs enter, they hatch into larvae that move throughout the body. Once infected, symptoms such as blindness, loss of muscle control, fatigue and even a coma can occur within a week. Although the baylisascaris infection is pretty rare in humans, it's a very serious health risk if the parasites invade the eyes, brain or other organs inside your body.
If you think you have ingested raccoon feces you should immediately contact a local health professional.
Canine distemper is a common viral disease found in raccoons. The disease infects the respiratory system, spinal cord and brain causing eye inflammation, discharge from the eyes and nose, labored breathing, nausea and diarrhea.
Canine distemper is caused by a single-strand RNA virus. The disease is very contagious and has a 50 percent mortality rate in infected animals.
Many of us are familiar with canine distemper since it's the leading cause of infectious disease found in dogs which is why proper vaccination of your pet is important.
Raccoons carry zoonotic diseases meaning they can naturally spread the infectious diseases to humans.
In order to protect yourself and your pets you should consider these important safety precautions:
* Do not allow pet food to remain outside overnight
* Secure the lid on your trashcan and never feed raccoons
* Patch holes and areas where raccoons could enter your home or attic
* Vaccinate your pets
* Avoid contact with raccoon feces and urine
* Contact a professional wildlife control service to remove unwanted raccoons and clean up any fecal matter or urine that could spread infectious diseases.