Thursday, February 18, 2010

Canine Distemper on the Island

This announcement appeared on the Sanibel city website the other day.

"The veterinarians at CROW Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on Sanibel have positively identified canine distemper in raccoons that have been brought in recently for treatment.

The disease does not affect humans. Canine distemper can infect unvaccinated dogs, foxes, coyotes, and skunks and is often fatal for wildlife. It severely weakens the animals and may cause them to appear disorientated and to wander aimlessly. Like all wild animals, even if they appear weak they can still become aggressive and bite if approached too closely. It is therefore unwise for the general public to try and help these animals directly if they are observed. If a sick raccoon is observed, the City encourages residents to call CROW at 239-472-3644 for response and pickup of the affected animal.

Canine distemper is more likely to occur when raccoon populations are large or concentrated. City of Sanibel Natural Resource Department biologists note that canine distemper among the raccoon population repeats on the Island in cycles of 5 to 7 years. Not all raccoons get the disease and many typically do survive these outbreaks. The disease is spread when animals have direct contact with body fluids or droppings from an infected animal. Distemper is always present in the environment, so the best prevention for dogs is to make sure they are vaccinated. If unsure, pet owners may want to contact their vet to make sure their dog’s shots are current. Symptoms of distemper 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."

CROW's numbers of raccoons are way up because of this. Not all volunteers can go on these rescues. It takes someone who has had their pre-rabies vaccinations. And yes, I have mine. Distemper is almost always fatal in wildlife. Unfortunately, they can't be vaccinated like your dogs. If you see a raccoon who appears to be sick, do not approach it. Keep it in sight and call CROW. They will then call a volunteer to come and get it. You may be asked to place something over the animal to contain it but if you can't--just keep it in sight for the volunteer.

If you live on the island or are visiting the island and you have a dog, PLEASE make sure that it has it's shots and do NOT let it near any wildlife. Remember--Sanibel has a leash law.

"It is unlawful for the owner of any dog to permit such dog to be at large (without a leash) in or on any public right-of-way, beach, or other public property, or upon any private property without the consent of the owner of such property. A leash must be no more than eight (8) feet in length. Sanibel’s laws also require cleaning up dog waste as dog waste poses additional hazards to people, water quality and wildlife habitat."


Little Black Scrap Cat said...

Good to know this. I do hope it doesn't take too big a toll on the Sanibel raccoon population. Or any other wildlife on the island!!

Snowbird said...

Remember--this is canine distemper. It only affects canines such as dogs, wolves, foxes, raccoons.

gpc said...

I wonder if the outbreak in distemper is connected to the increased raccoon population -- because of the reduction of the predators and the increase in the food sources, sanibel seems to have had burst after burst of healthy raccoons. Do you know if population stress adds to the odds of an outbreak or is it just one of those random things where a more virulent strain or something happens for no apparent reason? I just seems to me that we are often involved in creating the conditions that lead to so called 'natural' disasters -- or is that just my guilt talking?!

Rambling Woods said...

I just saw a program about how distemper killed many wolves in Yellowstone is an awful disease...