Cases of Canine Distemper Reported in Raccoons in Lincoln

(Lincoln, NE) -- Lincoln residents are being told to make sure their pets are up to date on their shots after cases of canine distemper were reported in raccoons.

Lincoln Animal Control says that two raccoons have tested positive for the disease, which affects dogs and wild animals. Animal Control says canine distemper is a contagious and serious disease that’s often fatal to susceptible animals.

“Raccoons are one kind of wild animal that can get canine distemper and they occasionally come into contact with people’s pets. Seeing this disease in local raccoons signals an increased risk for dogs in the area,” said Steve Beal, Animal Control Manager, Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.

“Canine distemper is caused by a virus that’s spread from an infected dog or wild animal through close contact and sneezing, coughing or barking. The virus can also spread to dogs and wild animals through shared food and water bowls and other items,” said J. Dustin Loy, Veterinarian and Board of Health member. “It’s extremely important that pet dogs are current on their distemper vaccinations. The vaccine is the best way to prevent the disease in dogs and it is recommended for all dogs.”

Canine distemper virus hasn’t been shown to cause illness in people, Loy added.

Initial signs of the disease in dogs include fever, watery eyes and runny nose, coughing, tiredness, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. Puppies younger than 4 months old and dogs that haven’t been vaccinated against canine distemper are at higher risk of the disease.

Residents should take the following steps to prevent canine distemper in dogs and other animals:

  • Ensure dogs are current on distemper vaccinations
  • Avoid contact with sick animals and wildlife
  • Choose establishments and training programs that require current vaccinations, health examinations, good hygiene and isolation of sick puppies and dogs
  • Keep dogs away from other dogs when sick

Beal said raccoon related calls to Lincoln Animal Control have increased recently. There were 42 calls in February and 25 so far in March. Of those 67 calls, 20 were for sick raccoons.

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