Local vet warns pet owners about distemper spread by raccoons

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A local veterinarian is warning pet owners about the dangers of distemper after reports of “zombie raccoons” spotted in the Youngstown area.

We reported Monday that Youngstown police have responded to over a dozen raccoon calls — all of them with reports of the same strange, zombie-like behavior. The majority of the calls happened in the daytime, even though raccoons are nocturnal.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said the animals likely have distemper.

Dr. Margee O’Donnell-Foust, of Bark Mobile Pet Vet, is now warning pet owners to make sure that their dogs are up to date on their vaccinations to protect against the virus.

Distemper can be contagious. It can cause digestive problems, respiratory issues, and in more serious cases, seizures.

“It’s mostly spread through inhalation, but any contact with a raccoon can be dangerous,” O’Donnell-Foust said. “It is not transmissible to humans, however, dogs in the backyard or in the park could certainly contract the illness.”

She said generally, cats do not catch the virus. Dogs are most susceptible.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has tips to prevent distemper on its website as well as the symptoms of distemper.

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