Raccoons bend corn stalks down to eat the ears. They break open and scoop out watermelons. They can be devastating for poultry farmers and will occasionally attack family pets. Control measures include keeping pet food put away inside a tightly closed metal container, securing garbage can lids, and erecting a 5- to 6-foot fence or a two-wire electric fence. Repellents may help temporarily. Live trapping in a wire cage trap is usually effective. Consult your local government animal control department for further information. If trapping raccoons, use caution. They may be cute but can be vicious with very sharp teeth and claws.
Common Infectious Diseases of Raccoons
Raccoons are susceptible to a large number of different infectious agents including bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Several of these infectious diseases are zoonotic. Veterinarians are faced with the diagnosis and treatment of wildlife including raccoons and need to be able to make the correct diagnosis as well as educate clients on the potential hazards associated with exposure to raccoons.
Leptospirosis is a common bacterial disease in raccoons caused by a number of different species of Leptospira. Transmission is thought to occur via urine contamination of feed and water. Other natural bacterial infections reported in raccoons are listeriosis, yersiniosis, pasteurellosis, and tularemia.
Viral diseases of raccoons include rabies, canine distemper, raccoon parvoviralenteritis, infectious canine hepatitis, and pseudorabies.
Canine distemper virus infection is probably the most common viral disease in raccoons. The clinical signs, and gross and histopathologic lesions in raccoons are similar to distemper in dogs. Neurologic signs due to distemper virus infection in raccoons are virtually indistinguishable from rabies induced neurologic disease.
Parvoviral enteritis in raccoons is due to a unique raccoon parvovirus that is most antigenically similar to feline parvovirus. Clinical signs include bloody diarrhea, lethargy, inappetance, and loss of fear of humans. Raccoons do not develop clinical disease when exposed to canine parvovirus. The most common method in which raccoons acquire pseudorabies virus infection is via the ingestion of virus-infected pig carcasses.
An important parasitic disease of raccoons is toxoplasmosis, which is a protozoal disease caused by Toxoplasmagondii. Felids are the definitive host for T. gondii, and they excrete potentially infective oocysts in their feces. Toxoplasmosis in raccoons is commonly associated with immunosuppression from canine distemper virus infection. Necrotizing encephalitis and pneumonitis are frequent lesions associated with toxoplasmosis.
Another parasite of importance in raccoons is Baylisascarisprocyonis, which is an intestinal roundworm of raccoons. Baylisascaris is a known cause of cerebral nematodiasis and ocular and visceral larval migrans in domestic and non-domestic animals, and humans. Transmission commonly occurs through the ingestion of infective eggs, which results in aberrant migration in hosts other than raccoons.