Alert: Raccoons With Distemper
The City of Gulf Breeze has experienced an increase in the number of calls 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 behavior, they should call the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 850-265-3676 or after-hours wildlife alert at 888-474-3922, and FWC will come to 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, may wander aimlessly, and 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 FWC at 850-265-3676 or after-hours wildlife alert at 888-474-3922 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.
Who should I call if I see a dead raccoon?
If you see a deceased raccoon in the City of Gulf Breeze, 24/7 service line at 850-934-5100.
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 Florida Fish & Wildlife, who will ensure the animal is humanely taken care of and does not continue to suffer or spread the infection.
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 Florida Fish & Wildlife 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 is 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 city doing to assist?
The city is sharing information with residents, veterinarians, and pet stores to help spread the correct information. The city is working very closely with the FWC and Santa Rosa County Animal Services.