Distemper In Raccoons: Analyzing The 5 Key Symptoms

distemper in raccoons

Learn the 5 key symptoms of distemper in raccoons. Recognize and act early to protect wildlife from this contagious viral disease


Distemper, also known as Canine morbillivirus or CDV virus, is a contagious viral disease that is commonly found in dogs but can also affect raccoons. The symptoms of this disease may not always be obvious, but it can have serious effects on the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of the animal.

Symptoms of Distemper in Raccoons:

1. Fearless or Confused Behavior:

Normally, wild animals, including raccoons, would run away upon encountering humans. However, raccoons with distemper may exhibit docile and fearless behavior, revealing their true condition. Here are some behavioral anomalies associated with the neurological impact of the virus:

  • Disorientation or aimless wandering
  • Repeatedly walking in circles
  • Drunk or wobbly movements
  • Difficulty responding to external impulses
  • Complete lack of fear

It’s important to note that different raccoons may display varying neurological symptoms. If you come across a raccoon with such behavior in an urban setting, it is advisable to contact raccoon removal services.

2. Distemper In Raccoons cause Discharge Around Eyes and Nose:

When there is a suspicion of distemper, professionals often examine the eyes and nose for vital information. Raccoons with distemper typically have eyes that excrete excessive mucous discharge containing water and pus. These symptoms can cause discomfort, breathing difficulties, and may even impair the raccoon’s vision.

Other symptoms, such as high temperature, coughing, nasal discharge, and lethargy, may also emerge, although distemper should not be confused with the rabies virus.

Also aware of  Rabies in Raccoons learn symptoms and their cure

3. Rough Fur Coat:

You may have noticed news stories about “zombie raccoons” infected with a virus, which is often attributed to the distemper virus. The raccoons’ strange behavior, along with their scruffy appearance, draws attention. Although the fur of raccoons with CDV virus initially appears normal, it quickly deteriorates, becoming rough or dirty. The following sequence of events may explain this:

  • A healthy raccoon contracts the contagious distemper virus
  • The raccoon begins to feel lethargic and confused
  • Neurological effects become more evident as the sickness spreads
  • The raccoon ceases to clean and care for its coat
  • Without proper nutrition, the animal’s skin and fur further deteriorate

4. Distemper In Raccoons cause digestive problems:

The CDV virus also affects the gastrointestinal system, making it nearly impossible for raccoons to properly ingest and process their food. Symptoms related to the digestive system include:


After consuming food, the body rejects it, causing the raccoon to vomit undigested remnants. This results in a loss of essential nutrients and amplifies other symptoms like lethargy.


Food that is partially or fully processed within the gut is excreted in liquid form. Combined with the virus-induced zombie-like behavior, this can lead to alarming dehydration.

Lack of appetite:

Refusing to eat or showing disinterest in offered food is a clear sign of illness in raccoons. Normally, these animals seize any opportunity to find and consume food.

5. Convulsions Followed by Seizures:

The neurological damage caused by the distemper can be disturbing to witness in raccoons during the later stages of the disease. In addition to confused or erratic behavior, the brain and nervous system are directly affected, leading to the following symptoms:

Distemper In Raccoons

Muscle spasms:

Twitching in major body parts, including the face muscles. Spasms may cause the head to tilt in an uncomfortable position and can progress to other neurological symptoms.

Jaw chewing:

Severe spasms may trigger excessive chewing movements, sometimes resulting in self-inflicted mouth harm.


Excess saliva drips from the mouth. Although similar to rabies symptoms, in distemper, salivation can be part of a range of other symptoms.


When the neurological damage becomes severe, spasms, chewing behavior, and salivation may escalate into full-blown seizures. These seizures can last from a few seconds to several minutes.

FAQs about Distempered in Raccoons:

  1. What is distemper in raccoons?
    Distemper is a contagious viral disease that affects raccoons, causing various symptoms and potentially lethal consequences.
  2. How can I identify a raccoon with distemper?
    Look for behavioral changes, eye/nose discharge, rough fur, digestive issues, and neurological symptoms like seizures.
  3. Is distemper in raccoons a threat to other animals or humans?
    Distemper primarily affects raccoons but can spread to other wildlife. It’s not transmissible to humans but can be to dogs.
  4. Can distemper in raccoons be treated or cured?
    There is no specific cure for distemper in raccoons. Prompt intervention by wildlife professionals is essential.
  5. What should I do if I encounter a raccoon with suspected distemper?
    Contact local wildlife authorities or removal services. Do not attempt to handle or approach the animal as it can be dangerous.


In conclusion, it is crucial to recognize the key symptoms of distemper in raccoons. By understanding the behavioral, visual, and physical changes associated with this viral disease, we can take appropriate action and seek professional assistance whenever necessary. Remember, early recognition and intervention can help protect both raccoons and other animals that may come into contact with the distemper virus.

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