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Canine distemper virus (CDV)

Canine distemper virus (CDV) can cause a significant neurological disease in canines (domestic dogs, foxes, coyotes), raccoons, and mustelids (mink, skunks, otters). The disease is probably the most common cause of death in raccoons and gray foxes submitted to diagnostic laboratories in the Southeast. The virus does not infect people. Although individual cases occur commonly, outbreaks seem to occur in raccoon and gray fox populations every 5-7 years. Outbreaks are more likely to occur when these populations are large or concentrated. The disease is usually fatal although some survive infection, and not all raccoons get the disease during an outbreak. Transmission is by direct contact with an infected animal or with body fluids or feces. Clinical signs of canine distemper may include discharge from the nose and eyes, a rough coat of hair, emaciation, and neurological signs such as tremors, incoordination, and unusual behavior. The disease cannot be reliably distinguished from rabies without diagnostic testing.

Keep children and pets away from raccoons and other wildlife. Be sure to avoid exposure between domestic animals and wildlife and ask your veterinarian about ensuring your pets are up to date on their vaccinations. Immediately report any possible exposure (e.g., bites or scratches from raccoons or other wildlife) of people or pets to your physician or veterinarian, respectively, and the county health department. Do not leave pet food outside and eliminate other attractants (secure garbage cans, do not feed wildlife). For tips on securing and reducing wildlife attractants, view the article Tips for Securing Attractants. If you find a wild racoon or fox that is sick or injured, please contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Sick or dead wildlife may also be reported to FWC’s Wildlife Health hotline at 866-293-9282.