PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP/WPRI) - Rhode Island officials are asking dog owners to make sure their pets are vaccinated against distemper, a normally rare disease that's been confirmed in a raccoon on Prudence Island.
The Department of Environmental Management says canine distemper was recently found after residents reported a large number of raccoons acting strangely and numerous deaths.
Authorities ruled out rabies, but tests came back positive for distemper.
The rapidly spreading disease doesn't affect humans, but it can infect raccoons, coyotes and foxes.
Here's a list of tips to protect pets and property:
- Secure all garbage so that wild animals are not attracted
- Do not feed cats and dogs outdoors as wild animals are often attracted to the food
- Avoid all contact with wild animals, especially those that appear sick
- Report all contact between wild animals and humans, or between wild animals and domestic animals to your local animal control officer or police department
- Do not allow dogs and cats to run at large
- Confine your pets to avoid contact with wildlife
The state veterinarian is urging dog owners to make sure their pets are properly vaccinated against both distemper and rabies.
Signs of the diseases can look identical. But while canine distemper is no threat to people, rabies can be deadly.
Residents are being urged not make any assumptions about which disease a sick wild animal may have. Instead, they should immediately report all contact with wildlife to the proper authorities.
Cats are usually resistant to infection with canine distemper virus.