TORONTO – The city is warning residents of a spike in raccoons infected with Canine Distemper Virus, which can kill dogs.
Raccoons displaying “bizarre” behaviour, including disorientation, aggression and seizures, could be infected, the city said in a press release Wednesday.
Diseased raccoons may also be more likely to approach people or sleep in public places. Canine Distemper Virus affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of canine mammals such as dogs, raccoons and skunks.
The disease does not affect cats. It’s transmitted through discharges from runny noses or tearing eyes, as well as through urine or feces.
But it doesn’t last long outside the body: Your pet would have to get up close and personal with a raccoon – or very recent raccoon extreta – to get infected.
Fioan Venedam, supervisor with Toronto Animal Services Enforcement and Mobile Response Unit, says the disease is more likely to occur in areas where raccoons are highly concentrated.
“It’s by the far the most common infectious disease [affecting animals] in Southern Ontario … You do see it every year, but this year we are starting to see an increase in the numbers,” Venedam said, adding that the virus runs in cycles every five to seven years.
The disease doesn’t affect humans.
But it can kill or sicken your dog if it’s unvaccinated and you let it off leash in areas where raccoon population is high.
“We just want to make sure that people are aware that the disease is out there and that they should have their dogs vaccinated.”
Nathalie Karvonen, executive director of the Toronto Wildlife Centre, says dogs are at risk but only if they are not vaccinated or are or are immunocompromised.
“This virus is one that dogs normally get vaccinated against,” Karvonen said.
READ MORE: Rob Ford wants city to deal with ‘severe’ raccoon problem
Mayor John Tory took up the “war on raccoons” in May and introduced specially designed green bins meant to keep the critters out.
READ MORE: Toronto wages war on Raccoon Nation, but experts say they’re here to stay
The city is asking anyone people who notice a raccoon displaying abnormal behaviour to contact Toronto Animal Services at 416-338-PAWS (7297).
If your dog isn’t vaccinated against Canine Distemper Virus, speak to a vet or visit the Toronto Humane Society to book an appointment.