Raccoons with Distemper FAQs

The Oakville Milton Humane Society has advised us that there is an increase in the number of calls they have responded to for sick raccoons. Many of the raccoons are exhibiting signs consistent with Canine Distemper Virus.

Canine Distemper (CDV) is a virus that is generally always present in the raccoon population although at low levels. Distemper cases in raccoons tend to spike in the fall. This is the same virus that dogs can contract.

Raccoons with distemper may approach people, or curl up to sleep in open areas in close proximity to people. They generally act disoriented or lethargic, but can become aggressive if cornered. They may have seizures.

Canine Distemper does not pose a threat to human health. Dogs who have not been vaccinated for distemper can become infected if they come in contact with a raccoon with distemper.

If residents notice a raccoon displaying abnormal behaviour, they should call the Humane Society and they will come pick them up.

Residents are not to approach or feed the raccoons.

What is canine distemper?

Canine Distemper is a viral disease affecting animals in the canine families in addition to some other mammals. It affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems. Raccoons are pre-disposed to this disease as are dogs. It also commonly infects skunks. The disease is most often fatal and those that recover may display permanent neurological damage.

Can humans catch canine distemper?

No. Humans cannot get canine distemper.

Can my dog catch canine distemper?

Yes. If your dog has not been vaccinated against distemper, and comes in contact with a raccoon with distemper. Most dogs are vaccinated as pups against distemper and regular booster shots may be given. If you are not sure, check with your veterinarian. Puppies who have not yet been vaccinated are at particularly high risk. To keep your pet safe, it is best to keep your dog on a leash when on walks and scan your backyard before letting your dog out.

What are the symptoms of a raccoon with distemper?

Raccoons with distemper may move slowly and may stumble as they walk. They lose their fear of humans, appear blind and confused and may wander aimlessly and may become aggressive if cornered. A mucus discharge will often be present around the eyes and nose and may be accompanied by coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, seizures or chewing fits. They may only exhibit some of these symptoms and otherwise appear quite healthy.

What should I do if I see a raccoon that I think has distemper?

Do not approach them. Do not feed them.

Call the Oakville Milton Humane Society at 905-845-1551 and give them the location and time of the sighting so they can locate and pick up the raccoon. This telephone line is available 24/7.

Should I call the Humane Society if I see a dead raccoon?

If you see a deceased raccoon in the Oakville area please report it to Oakville Milton Humane Society at 905-845-1551.

Can anything be done to help the raccoons?

Once a raccoon is infected, there is little to no chance of survival for the animal. It can take several weeks for the disease to run its course in the raccoon. Young raccoons are most susceptible to this virus. The best way to help an infected animal is to contact the Oakville Milton Humane Society who will ensure the animal is humanely taken care of and does not continue to suffer or spread the infection. The Town of Oakville’s by-law prohibits the harbouring of wildlife.

Should I feed the raccoons?

No. Do not feed raccoons or leave food out for them. Any food that is left out may only attract other wildlife, or attract sick raccoons to areas that pets frequent. Calling the Humane Society is the best thing you can do for these affected raccoons.

How else can I help?

To discourage raccoons or any wildlife from coming onto your property:

  • Do not leave any food out. At this time, it would also be advised to take down any bird feeders, or regularly clean up the area around the bird feeder so you do not attract raccoons
  • Ensure all garbage, recycling and GreenCarts are secure and left out on the morning of your regular pick up
  • Keep your pet on a leash when on a walk and scan your yard before letting them outside
  • Explain to your children why they should not approach raccoons or any wildlife even if they seem docile
  • Check with your vet to ensure your dog has been vaccinated against distemper if you are not sure

What is the town doing to assist?

The town is sharing information with residents, veterinarians and pet stores to help spread the correct information. All information will be available on the town’s website at oakville.ca – search for raccoons. The town is working very closely with the Oakville Milton Humane Society.

What is the Oakville Milton Humane Society doing to assist?

The Oakville Milton Humane Society has a 24/7 service available for residents to call in if you notice a raccoon that looks injured, is lethargic, or has any of the other distemper symptoms. When a call is received, the Humane Society officers will respond. Raccoons that are acting normally and appear healthy will not be picked up.