The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has received an increased number of reports about raccoons infected with canine distemper, primarily from Lafayette to the Florida Parishes in southeast Louisiana. Distemper is a virus that infects raccoons, foxes, coyotes, skunks and unvaccinated dogs.

The disease does not affect humans. It is more likely to occur when raccoon populations are large or concentrated.

The disease is spread among susceptible animals through direct contact with body fluids or droppings from an infected animal, according to a news release. The best prevention for dogs is to make sure they are vaccinated. Contact a veterinarian to make sure a dog’s shots are current.

Symptoms of distemper may include discharge from the nose and eyes, a rough coat of hair, seizures, coughing, emaciated appearance and unusual behavior such as disorientation or wandering aimlessly. The animals’ symptoms will become progressively worse, and the disease is usually fatal.

Distemper is not the same disease as rabies, although some symptoms are similar. LDWF advises that children and pets be kept away from sick raccoons and other wildlife. Even though the animal may appear calm, it can become aggressive if approached too closely.

To discourage raccoons from your surroundings, LDWF recommends that you remove attractants from your yard and feed pets indoors. If you feed your pets outdoors, bring in feeding bowls right after pets have eaten. Be sure to secure garbage cans so they can’t be knocked over or have their lids removed.

Do not feed raccoons, the release said, adding that providing artificial food sources may lead to unnaturally large concentrations of animals and increase the spread of disease.

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