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Concerns Over Canine Distemper After Police Kill Seven Sick Raccoons

Golden Valley's Animal Humane Society offers some insight and advice.

Over the past month, seven raccoons that police say had symptoms of canine distemper.

Joanne Paul, crime analyst with the , said it's not uncommon for this time of year and said other departments around the state have had it much worse.

Nicole Wallace, wildlife veterinarian technician with the , said Cottage Grove is one of those communities. She said they dealt with more than 35 sick raccoons in the first part of November, and said 17 had to be put to sleep.

Wallace has worked for the Humane Society in Golden Valley for nine years and said residents shouldn't be alarmed, but they should be aware of the problem.

"Down south, you're dealing with rabies and raccoons," she said. "In Minnesota, it's distemper—especially this time of year. There's no curing the distemper in wild animals, and they can spread the disease to our dogs and sometimes our cats."

Wallace said raccoons with distemper can sometimes have a form of feline distemper, but often they're suffering from canine distemper. 

Wallace said the distemper virus causes gastrointestinal problems, difficulty breathing, fever, weight loss and neurological problems like muscle twitching. In some cases, the virus has been known to cause death. She said a raccoon suffering from distemper will often have doping eyes with a green sheen, respiratory problems and nasal discharge.

"This isn't an epidemic and it doesn't seem to be spreading locally anyway," she said. "But that doesn't mean we shouldn't take the virus seriously or take precautions."

Wallace said while distemper isn't treatable in wild animals, there are vaccines available for pets, and most pets have had the vaccine. Without it, a healthy dog or cat could catch the illness by drinking out of the same water bowl as a sick raccoon.

"Canine distemper can also be contracted through the air up to 30 feet away," she said. "And raccoons can spread the virus for up to six months. So our police officers aren't just easing the suffering of a wild animal, they're also protecting other animals."

Wallace said she hopes people will keep an eye out for sick raccoons and call police if they see one. She said this is also a good opportunity to remind pet owners that they should never leave food or water for their pets outside.

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