Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Canine Distemper and Raccoons

I had my own close encounter with a very sick raccoon this morning and early afternoon.  I have seen several dead in driveways and along the side of the road.  These are not victims of a car or truck accident - they just look all curled up and not very happy.  In the past week I've passed by 16 dead raccoons in this neighborhood.
   Rosie and I went out early this morning and she relieved herself.  When we went out again, at 8 a.m., she was very interested in the deck, where it overhangs the water feature.  I stooped over, and I saw a raccoon's hind foot being pulled up into the opening.  I hoped the raccoon wouldn't die under the deck and next to the hot tub.
   I took Rosie out at 9:30 and a few minutes after 11.  On the last trip out, I saw the raccoon was on the grass beside the deck, and it was convulsing.  I quickly got Rosie back inside, keeping my body between her and the sight and scent of the raccoon.  First, I called the City of Boulder Animal Control; then I called the owners; then I called the veterinarians.  I spent the next 45 minutes discussing and asking questions about canine distemper...
   First, Animal Control was on another call - which didn't matter to me.  They arrived 45 minutes after my initial call to dispatch.  The young officer looked at the raccoon, and stated that it positively was a case of distemper.  The raccoon wasn't yet dead, and he asked if he could euthanize the animal in the back yard, where it was lying.  I asked to to put the poor creature out of it's misery as soon as possible.  He went back to his truck, filled a syringe with a potent anesthetic, and came back with a syringe poke stick, a set of tongs, and a large blue plastic bag.  Standing on the deck, he was able to inject the raccoon.  Waiting for two minutes after the raccoon ceased the breathe, he picked it up with the tongs, and placed it into the bag, tying it closed.  He took the body away, and cleaned the tongs, the poke stick, and his hands with a sanitizer, and then with a bleach wipe.

   After speaking with the Animal Control Officer, as well as the vets, I learned that raccoons carry both canine and feline distemper within their systems at all times.
   Feline distemper usually causes diarrhea and death in the raccoons.
   Canine distemper will cause diarrhea, followed by seizures and convulsions, then death.
   Sunshine and heat will cause the distemper virus to dry and die quickly.  If this had been mid-summer, I would not have had to do anything other than keep Rosie away from the area for 3 to 4 hours.   Since we are having a cool and rainy spell, I was advised to make a solution of water and bleach - 1 part bleach to 30 parts water - and spray the area, where the raccoon had spent it's last hour, very well.  I was told that once the area was dry, it would be safe.  (Of course, I'm a worry-wart and sprayed all the areas where I had seen the raccoon touching the ground, and where it had climbed under the deck - )

   I hope that none of you have to share the experience.

  The Animal Control Officer told me that we have large peaks of distemper deaths in raccoons every 3 to five years.....

  Have a happy Spring!

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