Disease can be transmitted to dogs

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FARMINGTON — The Farmington Police Department is warning residents about raccoons with canine distemper.

The raccoons have primarily been seen in Berg Park, but they have also been found in the Highland View subdivision behind Animas Valley Mall, according to police spokeswoman Georgette Allen.  

Allen said the police receive calls about raccoons acting in an unusual manner. She said people will find the raccoons curled up sleeping, and the animal does not move when approached.

"Their fear of people is gone," she said.

Raccoons with distemper could move slowly, stumble or wander aimlessly, according to the police department's blog.

While the raccoons may not be afraid of people, Allen said residents should not try to pet the raccoons or give them food.

"As cute as they are, they're still wild animals," Allen said.

She said people should also keep their dogs on leashes while walking in Berg Park. City ordinances require dogs to be leashed in the park. According to the police blog, the virus can be transmitted through saliva, mucus, urine or blood. While the virus does not affect humans, people can bring it home to their pets.

Veterinarians recommend annual canine distemper vaccines for dogs.

Stacie Voss, the Farmington Regional Animal Shelter director, said dogs that have not been vaccinated should not be taken in public places. Puppies younger than nine months old should not be around unvaccinated animals.

Voss said dogs can survive distemper, but the treatment is rough and the disease can have lifelong effects. Canine distemper can be spread from raccoons to dogs and can be fatal. The virus affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems in dogs.

According to the police department's blog post, the virus is usually present in low levels in raccoon populations and tends to spike during the fall.

"It's hard to test for it and it has a long incubation period," Voss said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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