What are the health risks associated with a rabid raccoon?

Raccoons, skunks, and bats are some of the more common animal carriers of rabies. The primary risk concerning rabies is transmission to a pet, people, or to another wild animal. As a regular carrier of the rabies virus, it is always wise to keep all pet vaccinations current and to ensure you know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a rabid raccoon and what to do if a pet or someone you know comes in contact with a rabid raccoon. While rabies is the most serious disease that raccoons can transmit, other raccoon diseases include raccoon roundworm from infected feces, giardia from feces contaminated food or water, trypanosomiasis, leptospirosis, and salmonella.

Signs a raccoon is rabid

Raccoons are one of the most common carriers of rabies in the U.S. Therefore, the homeowner should be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a potentially rabid raccoon. Many people think seeing a raccoon during the day means it is rabid; however, that may not be the case. Raccoons are often active during the day since a female could be taking longer than normal to locate food to feed a nest of young raccoons or looking for a new territory to occupy. Also, unusual or erratic behavior does not always mean a raccoon is rabid – it may have been poisoned, shot, hit by a vehicle or been in a fight with a predator or another raccoon.

The following are signs that a raccoon is rabid or otherwise unhealthy:

  • The raccoon staggers as though it seems “drunk”
  • The raccoon has “weeping” of the eyes and salivating or frothing at the mouth
  • The raccoon’s fur on the face appears wet and tangled
  • The raccoon seems to be unaware of noises or unwary of movements that would normally send it scurrying to a protected area
  • Unexplained aggression or lethargy
  • Throat muscle constriction that causes choking, drooling, and frothing of the mouth and loss of leg function due to paralysis.

If one sees a raccoon that shows any of these signs, do not try to capture or chase off the animal. Immediately call your local animal control unit, describe the animal’s behavior and request the animal be removed. If you, or a pet, have come in contact with an oddly behaving raccoon, find medical attention as quickly as possible.