City of Lakeway warns dog owners to vaccinate against distemper

Distemper in raccoons is usually caused by the canine distemper virus. The distemper virus is fatal and is closely related to the human measles virus. The virus is contagious and spreads easily between raccoons and dogs, and the disease leads to progressive deterioration of mental and motor skills in canines.

Dog owners can protect their pets from canine distemper and rabies through routine vaccinations, and by making sure dogs do not come into contact with wildlife. 
Infected raccoons will appear disoriented with crusted eyes; have mucus coming from their noses, and show shortness of breath. A raccoon with distemper may also display many signs associated with the rabies virus; it is not possible to tell the difference without viral testing. Infected raccoons may become suddenly aggressive and dangerous.

If you encounter an animal that is displaying signs of distemper, make sure to keep children and pets away and contact the Lakeway Police Department at 512-261-2800.

Signs of Distemper in Raccoons

Respiratory Symptoms
The first signs of canine distemper are in the respiratory system. The mucus membranes and respiratory tract show the first signs of distemper infection. If the raccoon is infected, the eyes and nose will have a lot of discharge. You may notice the eyelids crusted over, even unable to be fully opened. The raccoon may cough, have trouble breathing and have a fever.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms
During the respiratory attack the distemper virus will attack the gastrointestinal system. The raccoon will begin to vomit, even if it is barely eating. The raccoon will have diarrhea. The loss of water from the vomiting and diarrhea will cause dehydration and weakness. You will notice the raccoon moving slowly and losing weight due to loss of appetite as the disease progresses. During the gastrointestinal phase the foot pads of the raccoon will become thick and hard.

Neurological Symptoms
The distemper virus continues to the neurological system. Neurological symptoms are the most noticeable because the raccoon will often come out of hiding during this phase in the progression. The raccoon will wander aimlessly without its usual concern for concealment or protecting its young. If you see a raccoon out in the open during the day, there is probably something wrong with it. Distemper will cause seizures in the raccoon, usually starting in the jaw and moving on to full body seizures. The raccoon is mentally unstable during this phase and may suddenly become aggressive without warning or provocation.

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