How Can I Tell If A Raccoon Has Rabies?

One of the most feared diseases that can be transmitted from raccoons and other animals to humans is rabies, and although cases of death from the disease are extremely rare, rabies can still cause some significant health issues. A more common situation is that raccoons that are suffering with rabies can transmit the disease to household pets, which will then have much closer contact with their owners and the rest of the family. While there are some symptoms of rabies that are well known, it is certainly useful to know what to look for if you spot a raccoon that is acting unusually or may have appeared in your yard or garden.

Unusually Aggressive Behavior

The majority of times that a raccoon will come into contact with a human being, they will usually look to escape, unless they are in a location where they are regularly fed by people. This means that the main difference that people will first notice with a raccoon that has rabies is that they are displaying irrationally aggressive behavior. The only time that a healthy raccoon will attack a human is when they are cornered and cannot see a route of escape, or it is a case of a female raccoon that is trying to get to her young.

Even from a distance, it can be possible to spot a raccoon with rabies, as it will be wandering aimlessly, and may be staggering, as well as showing signs of aggression against any person or animal it encounters. Raccoons are also generally nocturnal animals, so spotting a raccoon during the daytime may be a sign of rabies, but this can be particularly true if the raccoon appears to be attacking another animal or even inanimate objects.

Foaming At The Mouth

One of the most distinctive symptoms of rabies that has widely been noticed in dogs and is also apparent when raccoons are in the final stages of suffering from rabies is a thick frothing at the mouth. If you do get a close look at a raccoon that is suffering from rabies and appears to be frothing at the mouth, it is also usually characterized by a wide eyed pained expression.

The reason that animals froth at the mouth when they are suffering with rabies is that the neural damage caused by the disease affects the brain and paralyzes the lower jaw of the animal, meaning they become unable to control their drooling. The virus also becomes most concentrated in the saliva itself, which is why the majority of cases where rabies is transmitted to humans does come from a bite from the animal.

Reluctance To Approach Water

Historically, many people referred to rabies as hydrophobia because both animals and humans suffering with the disease show a distinct aversion to water. This can cause a dramatic behavior change for raccoons, as they are normally keen to get to water, enjoying playing in it and using water to douse any morsels of food that they have discovered. Seeing a raccoon veering to avoid the lake shore or a pond could be an indication that they are suffering with the disease.

What To Do If You See A Rabid Raccoon

Spotting a raccoon during the daytime may not necessarily be something that is too out of the ordinary, but if it displays some of these symptoms, then it is certainly worth doing something about it. One thing that you certainly shouldn't do is approach the animal, as even the mildest and friendliest raccoon suffering with the disease is likely to bite, and this can have some very serious health implications. It is also vital to keep any pets well away from such an animal, as the impact of a bite from a rabid animal can be very serious for them too.

The best thing to do if you see a raccoon displaying any of these symptoms is to retreat to a safe location, either at home or inside a building well away from the animal to call the local animal warden or wildlife department. They will then arrange for the animal to be captured and humanely euthanized, because by the time a raccoon is visibly suffering with rabies, it will be in a significant amount of pain, and will also be beyond the point where treatment could lead to the animal recovering.