The illness that sparked a local report of a raccoon biting a man’s boots could be one that can also affect dogs: Canine Distemper Virus.
There have been hundreds of cases of raccoon distemper in the last few years in Toronto. The disease had led many people to believe that the cause was rabies.
In a Feb. 11 incident in Scarborough, a man was chased by a raccoon. The Animal Services’ dispatch officer was told the animal bit the toe of his boots. Similar encounters with raccoon distemper in East York have been reported.
There have been no cases of raccoon rabies in Toronto, said Tammy Robinson, spokesperson for Toronto Animal Services. However, the animals could be affected by CDV, which exists within the raccoon population in low numbers.
“They may behave aggressively if they are sick, disturbed from their den, are being protective or feel threatened,” Robinson said.
Abnormal raccoon behaviour includes seizures, chewing fits, and walking blindly. They might also have mucus around the nose and eyes. Robinson’s advice if you see a raccoon reacting abnormally: Call 311. Do not feed it or make contact.
One resident of East York encountered a raccoon with similar symptoms.
“We had a raccoon looking to get into our house about a month ago. It was pacing back and forth for over three hours,” said Effie Papadopoulos, who called Toronto Animal Services.
“We could see that its eyes were full of pus,” but the animal had gone by the time the city arrived, she said.
Sick raccoons are euthanized after being captured.
“There is a zero chance of survival for a raccoon with distemper, so the most humane thing to do was to euthanize it,” Robinson said.
In 2015, there was a rise in CDV cases among the raccoon population in the GTA, but that has levelled off.
Despite the virus’s name, it is not that common for dogs to be infected, since most are vaccinated. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, coughing and thick mucus.