Raccoons with distemper FAQs


The Farmington Police Department’s Animal Control Unit has noticed an increase in the number of calls related to sick raccoons. Many of the raccoons are exhibiting signs consistent with canine distemper. The following  includes information on distemper, steps to safeguard your pets and who to call when encountering a raccoon that may have distemper.

Frequently Asked Questions

 What is canine distemper?
Canine distemper is a contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous system of puppies, dogs and even ferrets. The virus can also be found in wildlife, such as raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes, and wolves (this is not an all-inclusive list). There is no cure for distemper, and the disease is often fatal. Canine distemper is generally always present in the raccoon population, although at low levels. The presence of the disease tends to spike in the fall.

What are the behaviors and symptoms of a raccoon with canine distemper?
Raccoons infected with canine distemper may exhibit unusual behaviors such as, slow movement, giving the appearance of being blind, stumbling, confusion and wandering aimlessly. They may also lose their fear of humans and become aggressive if cornered.

A mucus discharge will often be present around the eyes and nose and may be accompanied by coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, seizures or chewing fits. The animal may only exhibit some of these behaviors and symptoms and otherwise appear quite healthy.

What should I do if I see a raccoon I think has distemper?
If you see a raccoon and it appears sick, do NOT approach it; immediately call non-emergency dispatch at 505-334-6622. An animal control officer will be dispatched to assess the situation and will either make a referral to Department of Game & Fish or, if safe to do so, will catch the raccoon.

NOTE: Please remember, as cute as they may appear, a raccoon is a wild animal. Whether it’s carrying an infectious disease or not, it’s dangerous to try to make contact with or feed it.

Can my dog catch canine distemper?
Yes. If your dog has not been vaccinated against distemper and comes in contact with an infected animal, he/she can contract the disease. Puppies younger than four-months-old and dogs that have not been vaccinated against distemper are at an increased risk of acquiring the disease.

How can I protect my dog from contracting canine distemper?
To help reduce the changes of your dog becoming infected with canine distemper, owners should vaccinate their dogs when they are puppies and maintain booster shots as recommended by their veterinarian. Keep your dog on a leash when taking walks, and if you live in an area where raccoons, skunks or other wildlife have access to your yard, scan the area before letting your dog out.

How is canine distemper spread?
Canine distemper can be spread through a variety of ways. The most common transmission is through airborne exposure (sneezing or coughing). The virus can also be transmitted by food and water bowls, sharing of contaminated objects (such as toys, blankets and bedding) and ingesting or inhaling infected saliva, mucus, urine, or blood of an infected dog or animal.

Can humans catch distemper?
While canine distemper does not pose health risks to humans, people can be carriers of the virus and spread it to their pets. If you’ve ever owned a dog that suffered from canine distemper, it’s important to vaccinate new pets before they’re brought into the home.

*The information provided in this article is an overview of canine distemper. The purpose is to provide basic awareness and general safety guidelines. We encourage citizens to speak with their veterinarians for more in-depth information pertaining to the health of their pets.


American Veterinarian Medical Association

Pet MD


Pet microchipping

Did you know microchipping has been a successful tool in reuniting pets with their families, many of whom live miles away? Not too long ago, a purebred puppy was taken from a residence right here in Farmington. The owner purchased the puppy at a flea market 200 miles from here. However, the man who purchased the puppy didn’t know the individual selling it was not the owner and did not have permission to sell the animal. Later, we learned the original owner had microchipped the puppy, and when it was stolen from the Farmington residence, it was taken to a veterinarian who checked for a microchip. The veterinarian was able to find the puppy’s original owner, living more than 225 miles from Farmington.

Many stories have surfaced of people being reunited with their lost or stolen pets thanks to microchip technology. This is just one of several local stories.  A few years ago, animal control officers found a dog that had been microchipped and discovered it was missing from Wyoming. The owners were happy to be reunited with their four-legged friend.

Microchipping has been successful in felines as well. Recently, the Farmington Animal Shelter received a cat that had been microchipped. The cat’s owners live in Arizona and had lost their pet while staying at a local RV park a year ago. The owners were contacted and their beloved pet was returned to them.

So what is a microchip and how does it work?
A microchip is an electronic chip about the size of a grain of rice. It’s injected under the animal’s skin, in the neck area, with a syringe. The injection is comparable to a vaccination. The cost to microchip your pet ranges from $25 to $50, depending on your vet. San Juan Animal League offers microchipping for $20 at their vaccination clinics. Dogs and cats adopted at the Farmington Animal Shelter are already microchipped, and the shelter will submit the new owner’s information to the microchip company. If you have your pet microchipped at your veterinarian, you or the vet will need to register your information with the microchip company.

In the event your pet is lost and taken to an animal shelter or vet, staff will use a chip scanner to determine if the animal has been microchipped. If a chip is present, a number shows up in the scanner’s display. The vet or animal shelter will then call a centralized phone number and the owner’s contact information will be provided.

Pet microchipping is a cost-effective and easy way to ensure your beloved pet is returned if he or she is lost. If you choose to microchip your pet, be sure your registration remains current. If you move or change your phone number, notify the microchip service of the changes. If your pet becomes lost, it’s likely you’ll receive a phone call telling you your pet has been recovered and is waiting for you at the animal shelter.

loev-robinRobin Loev is a park ranger/animal control officer with the Farmington Police Department’s Park Ranger Animal Control Unit. He has been with the department since 2014 and has been with the city of Farmington since 2006.