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Local Concerns for Dogs and Raccoons with Distemper

Local Concerns for Dogs and Raccoons with Distemper

Distemper virus can be transmitted from raccoons to dogs through direct contact. Buncombe County Animal Services has reported an increase in distemper in raccoons. Here our AHNA vets share how you can help to protect your dog from the distemper virus.

Increase in Distemper in Raccoons

Buncombe County Animal Services has reported an increase in the number of cases of distemper in raccoons. The raccoon distemper virus is the same one that causes distemper in dogs (cat distemper is a completely different virus).

Symptoms of distemper in raccoons may include discharge from the nose and eyes, a rough coat of hair, emaciated appearance, and unusual behavior such as disorientation or wandering aimlessly. The animals’ symptoms become progressively worse and the disease is usually fatal. Distemper is not the same disease as rabies, although some symptoms are similar.

The distemper virus can be transmitted from raccoons to dogs through direct contact. There can be environmental transmission; the virus only lives outside of the body for a few hours in warm temperatures, but can live longer in the environment in cooler temperatures.

Distemper Vaccine

The good news is that dogs who are currently vaccinated for distemper are able to fight off the virus if they are exposed. It is recommended that if your dog has not been vaccinated with in the past year for distemper and has had contact with a sick raccoon, he or she should receive a booster vaccine within a few days of exposure.

While the vaccine doesn't prevent virus transmission, it does help create a more significant immune response to the disease. Animal Hospital of North Asheville is open and able to provide a distemper booster for your dog by appointment with our technician staff.

The best way to prevent your dog from being exposed to raccoons is to try to keep raccoons out of your yard:
  • Do not feed your pets outdoors, but if you do, bring the food in at night
  • Secure garbage cans or avoid putting food scraps in the garbage until trash day
  • If you have a compost pile with food scraps, make sure it is covered and secure
  • Don't feed the raccoons! Yes, they're very cute, but they can carry rabies and intestinal parasites in addition to distemper.

Local Increase of Distemper Cases

Asheville Police Department, NC Wildlife, and Buncombe County Animal Services have reported an increase in the number of cases of distemper in raccoons in Asheville and Buncombe Country. They are seeing a general increase in Buncombe and Madison County. The City of Asheville has a slightly more increase in cases in North and West Asheville.  The Biltmore Forest area has also seen an increase in raccoons with distemper. At this time, we are unable get stats on the number of cases. 

There are no reports of an increase of rabies in our area at this time.

If you have questions about raccoons in your neighborhood, please contact the NC Human and Wildlife Interaction Hotline at 1-866-318-2401.

Please contact your local animal control if you have concerns or questions about raccoons in your area. If your dog is showing symptoms of distemper contact AHNA to book an appointment.

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