RIVERSIDE, Ill. — Police in west suburban Riverside issued a warning to pet owners about “zombie raccoons” in the area that have tested positive for distemper.
The animals are called “zombie raccoons” because when they have the disease, they sometimes walk on their back legs, stagger and bare their teeth.
There has been a spike in the number of confirmed cases in the Riverside area. The police chief issued a warning to pet owners after three raccoons tested positive and had to be euthanized.
Officials have urged dog owners to keep a close eye on their pet and be mindful that distemper is airborne contagious and can be passed along rather easily.
Dr. Christa Baumgartner, a veterinarian, said it’s not something anyone should mess around with and said vaccination is a must.
“When our dogs are exposed to coughing or sneezing, it can stay in the environment for a while. If your dog is in the backyard, and this is especially true of unvaccinated dogs like puppies, and a raccoon has been in the area, it can be spread by most bodily fluids,” she said. “If you’re feeding wildlife and that raccoon ate out of your bowl of cat food for your stray cats and your puppy goes over, the saliva can also be contagious.”
Distemper affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems.
Symptoms include watery eyes and nose discharge, sneezing, coughing, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures and in extreme cases, death.
Anyone who suspects a raccoon they’ve seen may be affected should call police or animal control.