If your dog got bit by a raccoon, you are rightfully concerned. Raccoons are wild animals and there is always the chance for them being rabid. The inquisitive nature of dogs, on top of their prey drive easily triggered by quick fleeting animals, makes them likely to get too close for comfort to these furry critters, increasing the chances for one or the other getting injured. It's not unusual for raccoons to show aggression when they cornered or provoked and this can result in a bite or scratch to the dog. If your dog got bit by a raccoon, or you simply live in an area where raccoons are abundant, you may want to be prepared for these dangerous encounters.
The Concern for Rabies
The biggest concern if your dog got by bit by a raccoon is rabies. Fortunately, nowadays the incidence of rabies in dogs are low courtesy of the fact that the rabies vaccine is a legal requirement for dogs in many states.
However, with a disease as serious as rabies, no chances should ever be taken. Rabies is a public health risk considering that it can be transmitted from dogs to humans and rabies is a disease that is 100 percent fatal.
The problem with rabies is that the only sure way to know whether a raccoon is rabid or not is by trapping it. This is often close to impossible and can be dangerous to the person trapping the raccoon because he or she can also get bitten or scratched by the potentially rabid raccoon.
If your dog killed the raccoon, it's important to limit any further exposure to the dead body. Immediately call your local animal control and see if they are willing to submit the raccoon's body for rabies testing (they will need the head) or you can try to contact your vet, your local health department, or local rabies testing facility for information on what to do. Do not handle the dead raccoon yourself, this is something to leave for the pros.
If your dog got bit by a raccoon, it's important to determine if your dog is up-to-date on his rabies vaccine or not. Nowadays, most rabies vaccinations are good for 3 years, but in some states dogs may still require yearly vaccination. As soon as you gather the information about your dog's rabies vaccine, consult with your vet at once and report your findings either way, whether your dog is vaccinated or not.
Rabies Vaccine is Up-to-Date
If your dog was bit by a raccoon and his rabies vaccination status is current, you should still consult with your vet at once.
With a serious condition as rabies, your dog will need to be vaccinated with a booster shot as soon as possible to reduce any chances, explains veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Walsh.
On top of that, your dog will need to be monitored for a certain amount of time, generally for 45 days, explains veterinarian Dr. Diane. The time required may vary from one county to another. In most cases, the dog should be kept strictly at home with little contact as possible.
The incubation time for rabies (time between the bite and the onset of symptoms) is roughly from 3 to 12 weeks; therefore you will need to watch for any symptoms of rabies arising during this time and report immediately to the vet if you notice any. Symptoms to be wary of include changes in behavior, drooling, loss of coordination and lack of appetite.
"Dogs, cats, and ferrets that are current on rabies vaccination should immediately receive veterinary medical care for assessment, wound cleansing, and booster vaccination. The animal should be kept under the owner’s control and observed for 45 days."~Rabies Compendium
Rabies Vaccine is Not Up-to-Date
If your dog got bit by a raccoon and his rabies vaccination status is not current, consult immediately with your vet. Many veterinarians recommend giving a rabies shot within 72 hours. Now, if your dog was vaccinated against rabies vaccine in the past (and you have it documented), but he is now overdue, there are chances your dog can be vaccinated and then sent home for 45 days of monitoring.
If your dog, on the other hand, has never had a rabies vaccine in his entire life, things get more complicated. Your dog may need to be quarantined for 4 months (previously, the requirement was 6 months). This means the dog must be placed in strict isolation in an approved facility for the designated time frame and monitored. If this is not an option due to costs, alternatively, the dog may need to be euthanized immediately.
As seen, rabies is something to not be taken likely! Now you understand why the rabies vaccination is mandated by law. So protect your dog and your family by keeping those vaccines up-to-date and do the best you can in preventing your dog from making undesirable encounters with wild animals.
Disclaimer: rabies is serious health issue and laws tend to change time after time. If you suspect your dog got bit or scratched by a wild animal, consult with your vet at once.
"Dogs, cats, and ferrets that have never been vaccinated should be euthanized immediately... If the owner is unwilling to have the animal euthanized, the animal should be placed in strict quarantine for 4 (dogs and cats) or 6 (ferrets) months. "~Rabies Compendium
Dog Got Bit By a Raccoon: Other Concerns
If your dog got bit by a raccoon, there are a few more concerns to be worried about. One of them is the risk for a potential infection.
Any bite from an animal has the potential for becoming infected. Bacteria from the animal's mouth is injected deep under the skin which is a place where bacteria thrive. Since you will have to see your vet regardless of his vaccination status due to the rabies concerns, this is a good time to have the vet assess the bite wound.
Bite wounds often needs to be cleaned and flushed, and because of the high chances for infections, vets will often suggest a brief course of antibiotics.
On top of the risk for rabies in non-vaccinated dogs and the risk for infection, there's another potential disorder to be aware of. This disorder is known as "coonhound paralysis."
Coon hound paralysis in dogs is the sudden onset of acute inflammation affecting multiple nerves. Affected dogs typically lose voluntary movement of the back legs which then affects the front legs as well. This condition occurs when a dog is exposed to a raccoon’s saliva which can happen when a dog has a fight with a raccoon.
- Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control, 2016, National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians; Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control Committee; Catherine M. Brown DVM, MSc, MPH (Co-Chair); Sally Slavinski DVM, MPH (Co-Chair); Paul Ettestad DVM, MS; Tom J. Sidwa DVM, MPH; Faye E. Sorhage VMD, MPH
- Textbook of Veterinary Physiology Cunningham Third Edition, WB Saunders Company