Rise in raccoons carrying distemper cause concern for pet owners

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Wildlife experts at Kansas State University are issuing a warning for pet owners to keep their animals up-to-date with vaccinations after what they see as an increase of raccoons carrying distemper.

Distemper is a virus that affects animals like dogs and raccoons. It can be deadly, but it's also easily prevented by vaccinations, according to Kansas State University experts.

“Generally, it begins at six weeks of age, they are vaccinated every three or four weeks after that until they are about 18-to-20 weeks old,” said Dr. James Carpenter of Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

He says that after that, veterinarians usually suggest updating the distemper vaccination every one-to-three years.

Meanwhile, Animal Control Officer George Sears of Riley County says there are obvious signs to look out for if a raccoon suspected to have distemper is spotted.

“To see them in the middle of the day, it is rather unusual,” said Sears. “When we encounter the raccoons, they are either sitting back or they can be aggressive. They walk for a couple of feet, they stumble, they fall down.”

It is recommended that pet owners keep their animals on leashes and, to the best of their ability, away from wildlife. 

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