A warning to anyone feeding stray dogs or cats in the neighborhood: while it may seem like a nice thing to do, in reality you could be attracting seriously ill wildlife and sentencing your own dog to a terrible disease that can often be fatal.
Distemper is a highly contagious and serious viral illness that mimics some of the symptoms of rabies. In addition to raccoons, it affects other species of wildlife including wolves, foxes, and skunks.
A sick animal may attack if provoked, but your dog doesn't have to be bitten to get this deadly disease. If it has direct contact with bodily fluids or droppings from an infected animal, the virus can spread.
Although distemper occurs year-round, it has seasonal peaks. Thanks to the virus' ability to withstand cold, it can become particularly dangerous in the early spring, fall and winter.
The concern for your dog: canine distemper has no cure. The best advice to pet owners is to prevent contact with infected animals in the first place.
Securing your garbage cans will also put a stop to unwanted visitors.
And if you come across a sick animal, don't try to approach it. The first thing you should do is call the police.
Also, remember that dogs who haven't been immunized against distemper are at greater risk, so you'll want to get your dog vaccinated. The vaccine not only protects against distemper, but hepatitis, rabies and leptospirosis as well.