Bob’s Article – Do They Really Lose Their Temper?
By Bob Dispenza, Park and Education Manager,AllenCountyParks
You may have seen this before: a raccoon staggering around in the daytime, walking in circles and bumping into things. What on earth is wrong? Is there anything you can do?
What you may have witnessed were the effects of a distemper infection. Distemper is a viral disease of meat-eating animals (carnivores). Humans cannot get distemper, but its symptoms are often confused with rabies and humans can be infected with rabies.
Distemper comes in two types – canine and feline. Both are highly infectious for certain carnivores, and especially deadly to the young. Some wild animals may be infected with both like the raccoon mentioned above.
Canine distemper is mostly found in dog-relatives – wolves, coyotes, foxes and dogs. Infections can be found year round. Since the virus is cold resistant. Most wild animal cases are found in spring and summer in young, since they are more susceptible than adults. The virus is usually inhaled and sometimes ingested. Canine distemper is not always fatal.
Feline distemper affects bobcat, domestic cats and lynx, along with raccoons, weasels and their relatives, and badgers. Transmission is mostly by infected body secretions/excretions, and possibly by fleas, flies and other insects and the disease is often fatal.
Symptoms are many and varied, but often include neurological disturbances. Infected animals may show aggressiveness, loss of fear of humans, disorientation, and lack of alertness, convulsive or uncoordinated movements, aimless wandering and unkempt appearance. Sometimes runny nose or eyes are present. Due to digestive system damage, infected animals may be really thirsty. Animals that have these symptoms should be avoided. Chances of helping them are extremely small, and if the disease is not distemper, handling the animal could be quite dangerous. Distemper virus does not affect humans, but confusion with rabies is of concern, since it has many of the same symptoms as distemper. Some other animal diseases may mimic distemper.
Keep yourself and pets away from suspicious wild animals. Do not try to approach or handle such animals. Leave them alone and leave the area. If you or your unvaccinated pet have had direct contact or been bitten by a diseased animal, you should react as if rabies is involved, just to be safe. Distemper is harmless to humans, but rabies is usually fatal if untreated. If you’ve been bitten contact your doctor and if the animal is still around contact one of these agencies.
Allen County Sheriff’s Department 260 449-7491
Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control 260 427-1244
New Haven Police Department 260 493-1517
More information is available here:
It is much easier and safer to just keep your distance from suspicious –acting animals. If they’re not afraid of you, you should be afraid of them.
Also, please if you have pets make sure that they are up to date on all their vaccinations. While we can’t always help wild animals we can help those animals that we have domesticated.