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Raccoons carrying incurable virus that infects dogs reported in 5 MN counties

Pet owners have been warned to keep their dogs away from dead or sick wildlife.
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Raccoons with a disease that can be passed on to dogs have been found in five Minnesota counties, with dogs getting sick in two of them.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued a warning on Monday about canine distemper, a disease that can be spread through the air or by direct contact with raccoon urine, feces, blood or saliva.

Cases of dogs falling sick have been reported in Olmsted and Yellow Medicine counties, while infected raccoons have been reported in Dodge, Winona and Kandiyohi counties.

Although it doesn't affect humans, distemper in animals can look similar to rabies and pet owners are being urged to stay away from sick wildlife and ensure their dogs are up to date with their vaccines.

Canine distemper affects the central nervous system of animals including raccoons, foxes, wolves and skunks, causing them to behave abnormally, lose their fear of humans, stumble, shake and appear overly friendly.

Other symptoms can include sneezing, coughing and discharge from the eyes and nose.

There is no known cure for canine distemper, with treatment typically focusing on alleviating the symptoms, according to WebMD. The best way to protect your dog is to make sure they've gotten their distemper vaccination.

The Minnesota DNR's wildlife health supervisor Dr. Michelle Carstensen said a few cases of the canine distemper virus are reported in the state each year, but there has been a rise in reports so far in 2017.

There have also been rising reports in other states, including Tennessee, Virginia and Texas.

All dogs are at risk but puppies younger than 4 months old and unvaccinated dogs are at increased risk of getting the disease. You can find more information about it here.

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