Risks Of Disease
Saying a raccoon is a disease carrier is an understatement, and they can not only be a danger to you but to your pets, as well. The best advice is to stay away from them. But if you’ve touched or fed a raccoon, been bitten or scratched by one or been exposed to a raccoon’s urine or feces, you should go to the doctor as soon as possible.
Raccoons Carry Rabies.
Raccoons are one of the most common carriers of rabies in the United States. It can spread to you or your pet from a raccoon’s saliva or from being bitten or scratched by one.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first symptoms of rabies are similar to the flu. For several days you can feel weakness or discomfort, run a fever or suffer from a headache. As the disease progresses, an infected person will experience cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, agitation, delirium, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, and insomnia.
Rabies has to be caught and treated early. The CDC says once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is almost always deadly.
In your pets, American Humane says to watch first for behavioral changes. Your dog or cat may be anxious, aggressive or overly friendly. As rabies progresses, your pet will develop hypersensitivity to light and sound, may have seizures and become extremely vicious.
Raccoons Carry Roundworm.
Baylisascaris procyonis or roundworm is a parasite found in the intestines of raccoons. The roundworm sheds large numbers of eggs in the feces of raccoons. Infection occurs if a person ingests the infectious eggs, which happens most often in children or others who are more likely to put dirt or animal waste in their mouth by mistake.
It can take between one and four weeks for symptoms to present themselves, but you should go to the doctor immediately if you think you’ve been exposed. Baylisascaris procyonis is not contagious, but it can affect the brain, spinal cord, eyes or other organs. No drug has been found to be completely effective in treating this type of roundworm. The CDC says symptoms include:
- Liver enlargement
- Loss of coordination
- Lack of attention to people and surroundings
- Loss of muscle control
It can take between two and four weeks for the eggs in raccoon feces to become infectious. You should dispose of it immediately and properly to avoid getting sick. Carefully remove, burn and bury it or send it to a landfill and avoid getting it on your hands and clothes. Use boiling water or a propane flame-gun to treat decks, patios or other outdoor surfaces it may have come in contact with.
Dogs can contract this type of roundworm and spread it through their feces. Here are the symptoms to look for in your dogs:
- Unsteady walking
- Loss of coordination or muscle control
- Difficulty eating or swallowing
Raccoons Carry Giardiasis.
Giardiasis is sometimes called a “swimming pool” disease because it is often transmitted through water from a pool or other body of water you might swim in. Raccoons carry the organism in their feces and contaminate water, soil or other surfaces. People become infected when they swallow the parasite.
There are plenty of prescription drugs that will treat Giardiasis. Symptoms begin between one and three weeks of becoming infected and include:
- Gas or flatulence
- Greasy stool that floats
- Stomach or abdominal cramps
- Upset stomach
Dogs and cats are commonly infected with Giardiasis. The CDC says to look for:
- Abdominal discomfort
Raccoons Carry Leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that raccoons shed in their urine and other secretions. It can be contracted orally or through open wounds. It can take between two days and four weeks for the onset of symptoms, which include:
- High fever
- Muscle aches
- Red eyes
- Abdominal pain
Someone with Leptospirosis can recover and then get sick again. The second time around is much more severe and can result in kidney or liver failure or meningitis. It can take several weeks to several months to fully recover.
Your pets can also contract Leptospirosis. Here are the common symptoms that have been reported to the CDC:
- Abdominal pain
- Refusal to eat
- Severe weakness and depression
- Severe muscle pain