Raccoons infected with distemper could pose risk to dogs

WICHITA, Kan. It's another warning for dog owners.

The Veterinary Health Center at Kansas State University says it's seen an increase in raccoons with distemper, a highly contagious viral disease that can spread to dogs.

Veterinarians at K-State say an increase in infected raccoons could pose a risk for dogs in the Manhattan area and it's possible the problem exists in Sedgwick County, as well.

Distemper can spread from the infected raccoons to dogs through direct contact.

"The clinical signs that we tend to see are gooey eyes, discharge from the nose, vomiting, diarrhea, and these signs can actually progress to neurological signs such as seizures and sometimes even death," says Dr. Kelly Razek with Chisholm Trail Animal Hospital.

Sedgwick County Animal Control says it hasn't necessarily seen an increase in these cases, but it did receive a call in the past week about a raccoon acting strangely. That raccoon was sent to K-State for testing.

There's one easy way to protect your dog from contracting the disease, Razek says.

"If a dog has been receiving all of its vaccines, distemper should not be a concern," she says. "Those dogs should be well covered by the vaccines.

Razek says canine distemper is difficult to treat and any dog that comes in contact with a possibly-infected wild animal should see a vet immediately.

"Unfortunately a lot of times, by the time a veterinarian sees those animals, it is a little too late to treat, but in the early stages, those can be treated."