Return of the zombie raccoon: Chicago dog owners are warned after a spate of sightings of 'staggering, snarling' critters infected with deadly canine distemper virus

  • Zombie-like raccoons are roaming around the west Chicago suburb of Riverside 
  • They are infected with canine distemper which makes them behave bizarrely 
  • Staggering, snarling and slowness are some of the affected animals' symptoms 
  • Police are warning dog owners to keep their pets away from the crazed critters 
  • Canine distemper is highly contagious and can be lethal for man's best friend 

Police are warning dog owners in a Chicago suburb to be on the lookout for 'zombie raccoons' infected with the deadly canine distemper virus. 

Riverside Police say there has been a spike in the number of sightings of raccoons displaying zombie-like symptoms, including moving extremely slowly, walking on their hind legs, staggering, baring their teeth and showing a lack of fear. 

Their bizarre behavior is caused by the neurological effects of the distemper disease. 

Raccoons infected with distemper (pictured) display zombie-like symptoms, such as baring their teeth and acting fearlessly

Raccoons infected with distemper (pictured) display zombie-like symptoms, such as baring their teeth and acting fearlessly 

Riverside Police are warning dog owners to keep their pets away from wild animals and update their vaccinations against canine distemper

Riverside Police are warning dog owners to keep their pets away from wild animals and update their vaccinations against canine distemper

Although the virus cannot be transmitted to humans, it is extremely contagious and can be deadly to dogs. 

Authorities are urging owners to vaccinate their pets and keep an eye on them when they are outside so they do not come in contact with wild animals. 

The disease is most often spread through bodily fluids, so all it takes is for an infected raccoon to eat from a dog's bowl in the backyard. 

'It seems every year around this time we get a rise in calls about raccoons acting oddly and we respond to calls about raccoons that may be a danger to the public,' Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said.

He said people should call the police if they see a sick raccoon. 

The diseased critters are often spotted near bodies of water and forests. 

The virus can’t be transmitted to humans, but any contact with raccoons can be dangerous for dogs. They are often infected through sneezing or coughing from an infected animal (pictured)

The virus can’t be transmitted to humans, but any contact with raccoons can be dangerous for dogs. They are often infected through sneezing or coughing from an infected animal (pictured)

WHAT IS CANINE DISTEMPER?

Canine distemper is a highly contagious disease that may affect dogs' respiratory, gastrointestinal and neurological systems. 

It is most commonly seen in young, unvaccinated or immune-compromised dogs.  

Symptoms in dogs

Symptoms of canine distemper can include watery eyes and nose discharge

Symptoms of canine distemper can include watery eyes and nose discharge

  • Vomiting 
  • Poor appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Discharge from the eyes and nose 
  • Sneezing and coughing 
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Seizures 
  • Muscle tremors or tics 

The virus can result in death from secondary pneumonia or seizures. More than 50 per cent of dogs that contract the disease die from it.

Even if a dog survives, canine distemper can cause irreparable nervous system damage, leaving the dog with partial or total paralysis. 

There is no cure for canine distemper infection. Affected dogs can be treated with supportive care to alleviate symptoms. 

Source: Riverside Animal Care 

One man who lives in a wooded area near the Des Plaines River told Fox 32 News he helped his neighbor fish a dazed raccoon out of her pool.

'It seemed like it was really just unsure of where it was at and then as it looked at you, it really looked like it was just looking right through you. There wasn’t any kind of fear or any kind of reaction whatsoever,' Sean Cimino said.   

Police put down animals that are suffering or pose a public threat and public works crews dispose of the cadavers.   

Animal Control says the problem is not just a Riverside one.   

'Really people throughout the county should be on alert. What we’re asking people to do is making sure that they are with their animals, when they’re on walks, that their animals are leashed,' said Natalia Derevyanny, a Cook County Animal & Rabies Control spokesperson.   

A viral outbreak of canine distemper killed dozens of raccoons in New York's Central Park last summer. 

Authorities in Youngstown, Ohio, had to euthanize a dozen zombie-like rodents in last April. 

Other wild animals including foxes, coyotes and skunks can also get infected with distemper. 

The disease is most common in spring and symptoms are similar to rabies.  


Advertisement

Chicago dog owners warned of zombie raccoons infected with deadly canine distemper virus

The comments below have not been moderated.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.