Rabies, Raccoons and Dog Safety

Rabies, Raccoons and Dog Safety

Rabies, Raccoons, and Dog Safety

City Raccoons

On this episode of Vet Chat I ask Dr. Ryan Llera to discuss rabies, raccoons and dog safety.

There have been several warnings to pet owners lately informing them of raccoons that have tested positive for rabies, and don’t think for one minute that because you live in the city your pet is exempt from being exposed to these infected animals.

The above photo is a raccoon that took up residence in my own garbage bin. Let me tell you, there is nothing more eye opening, or heart racing then opening the lid to your garbage bin and seeing this face look up you at you!

Each time I let Edie out into our garden I have to be on guard and make sure the coast is clear, because up in the pine trees of my backyard lives a family of raccoons. There have been some close calls when one or more of these raccoons have been making their way walking along the tops of my fence to get to their tree house. So this week when I take Edie for her annual vet checkup, she will once again be getting her rabies vaccination.

Rabies, Racoons and Dog Safety

Raccoon laser beam eyes from my tree

Rabies in the Year 2016

Nature, the first frontier. So much has been learned about the world around us but one of the things we haven’t figured out is how to eradicate rabies. Yes, rabies is still out there and an affliction with it can be devastating. The Ministry of Natural Resources does its best to vaccinate the wildlife but sometimes it isn’t enough. This is where the reality of your pet’s health and the welfare of the general public comes into play.

Why is this especially important now? In the past 2 months, 33 cases of rabies have been diagnosed in raccoons in Ontario alone, mostly in the Hamilton area. The re-emergence of rabies was noted when two dogs were picked up by animal control and placed in a van with a sick raccoon. Subsequently, the raccoon and one of the dogs both got loose and were fighting. The dogs were not vaccinated against rabies and their fate remains undetermined as of December 2015. Additionally, several of the raccoons have also been diagnosed with distemper which is also transmissible to dogs (but not people).

Signs of rabies occur in phases:

  • Dilated pupils, fever, hypersensitivity around the wound
  • Constricted pupils, aggressive behavior, excessive drooling, stumbling, seizures
  • Progressive paralysis, voice change, inability to swallow, dropped jaw, coma, death

Why don’t vaccines get updated? For some, pet owners it becomes a matter time or cost. Maybe it’s because the anti-vaccine movement has picked up ground though for the record, there are extremely few reasons to not have your pet vaccinated and they don’t typically get noted until pets are older in life. More often, the reason I’m given is that some pet owners feel their pets are indoors only (many cats) or that they never leave the yard or live out in the country. The fact remains that bats can fly indoors and wild animals can migrate through yards.

Rabies, Raccons and Dogs Safety

Garbage Can Raccoon

Animals that are not vaccinated and either bite a person or get bitten by an animal are at risk for being quarantined or in certain cases will be euthanized and tested for rabies. Yes, your beloved pet may be euthanized all because it wasn’t vaccinated for a preventable and deadly disease. Is it worth the risk of losing a furry family member or putting people at risk of being exposed? Besides, every city, town, municipality has laws that require rabies vaccines for any pets over 4 months of age. So no more excuses please; do what is right. Protect your pet & your community.

Tell us – have you or your pet experienced any raccoons in your area?

Dr. Ryan Llera is a veterinarian in Kingston, Ontario. He can be found on Twitter, Facebook and sharing life as a vet and pet owner on his blog

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Author: Kelly Harding & Edie The Pug

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26 Comments

  1. Rabies is a scary issue. We are lucky that we don’t have racoons here.

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    • No raccoons, lucky you! But I guess each location has its own critter and predator issues.

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  2. It’s so easy to forget that there are natural predators and dangers out there, even in urban areas. I don’t think there are raccoons here, but I worry about a hawk swooping up my tiny chi mix!

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    • Oh my gosh! We have the odd hawk here too! When I was out on a walk with Edie we saw a hawk in someone’s driveway – lets just say he was having a feast on a rather large bird. As small dog owners we have to be extra careful of predators.

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  3. That is so scary! We haven’t had any raccoon in our backyard, but we get possums and armadillos. They will definitely give you a fright!

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    • No possums or armadillos here. I guess each location has their critter problems.

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  4. Earlier this winter I looked out the window and saw a raccoon on the porch. We also have skunks, deer, and foxes around here. A few years ago, one of the foxes was out next to the fence and was clearly in distress. I warned my neighbors (they have small kids) and tried calling an animal wildlife rehabilitater. The neighbors called the police, who shot the fox. I felt terrible because I’m not sure it really was rabid (I think it had a broken leg and mange.) I try to always supervise my dogs – even when they are in the fenced in yard because I know animals go in there. I do keep them up to date on their shots. Two of my kids had to get rabies shots when they were potentially infected by a bat (meaning they probably weren’t, but better safe than sorry!)

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    • My garden is fenced too, but it doesn’t stop the critters from entering. The raccoons walk across atop of our fences, they’re acrobats!
      I’m so sorry for your children to have to go through getting rabies shots, that’s awful for them, but like you say “better safe than sorry”.

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  5. We’re totally indoor kitties, but we get our rabies vaccination every year. We live in the south and we do have a lot of wild animals with rabies.

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  6. After having a brush with being exposed to rabies in my vet assistant days I tend to be over cautious and make sure my dogs are vaccinated. Since Pennsylvania tends to a high number of rabies cases I’d rather be safe than sorry.

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  7. We don’t have many raccoons but we sure have our share of coyotes and deer! Every evening they march right across our yard.

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    • Oh! Coyotes sound scary!

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  8. I think you live in my area. My dog is vaccinated (I have to if I travel with him anywhere or leave him at a boarders) but my indoor cat got a special dispensation because of her kidney issues.

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    • We have bins for compost as well, and it’s been a challenge because the raccoons have figured out how to unlock the bins!

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  9. Layla is up to date with her shots and I have only seen one in my area so am relieved with that 🙂

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    • I’m happy that Layla is up to date on her shots. But remember, if you see one raccoon, you can be sure there are more close by!

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    • Oh you are very lucky! But keep an eye out, they can be sneaky!

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  10. Great post! Rabies is a scary topic, especially when I visit the farm. There are always wild animals running around, but to me they all look like cats that I want to chase, which isn’t good!

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    • Oh Spencer, don’t chase those cat-like raccoons! I’ve tried chasing them too and they can be very nasty – raccoons are more dangerous than those cats!

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  11. Oh wow…we have rabies-infected skunks here in N Texas, and one year had a distemper outbreak in raccoon populations. Always good to protect our pets!

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    • Skunks can be a real problem too. We had one living under our garden shed and had to be so careful when Edie was in the garden. Thank goodness the skunk decided to take up residence elsewhere

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  12. Living in Seattle we have to be watchful for raccoons – they are here in spades! These are great awareness tips – thanks for sharing!

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