In the first few months of 2005, the Animal Management Unit for the Arvada Police Department had to euthanize more than 30 raccoons that were sick with distemper.
Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that infects animals such as raccoons, skunks, coyotes, and unvaccinated dogs. This disease does not affect humans; however, it can be easily passed on to dogs or cats.
Animals become infected through direct contact with bodily fluids or droppings from a contagious animal. This may also include airborne exposure to the virus contained in the respiratory secretions of another animal.
The first sign of symptoms is eye or nose discharge. Next will be coughing, fever, unusual behavior, reduced appetite, disorientation, or vomiting. In the later stages,seizures or paralysis will occur. Eventually the disease causes death. Many of the symptoms are similar to, and therefore oftentimes mistaken for rabies.
Becky Robison, Animal Management Supervisor, says that most of the raccoons that officers have had to euthanize have been out in the middle of the day and were disoriented with a variety of cold-like symptoms.
As a general safety reminder, the Animal Management Unit advises the public to make sure that their animals are current on their distemper vaccine and to not leave food or water bowls out at night. Another tip to avoid exposure is to bring pets inside at night.