We always want to keep our pups happy, healthy, and well socialized, and usually the local dog parks offer a great place to achieve all of the above - but unfortunately, things do not always go as planned. Pinellas County officials just reported that two raccoons found around the Ft. De Soto Dog Park and Beach tested positive for canine distemper.
The Pinellas County Animal Service officials are now asking locals to avoid the park at 3500 Pinellas Bayway South in Tierra Verde, particularly pet owners who have dogs with compromised immune systems, are young, old, or have not received a full and updated series of vaccines.
Canine distemper virus is a highly contagious disease affecting a wide variety of wildlife including foxes, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, and ferrets. It can be spread through the air or direct contact and causes symptoms which compromise the normal function of the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous system of dogs.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “distemper is often fatal, and dogs that survive usually have permanent, irreparable nervous system damage.” Thankfully, canine distemper is a disease often included in the "core vaccinations" given to dogs while they are still puppies.
The Fort De Soto Park is one of the busiest in the area. It has large fenced areas for both large and small dogs, an off-leash beach area, dog showers, and plenty of other dog-friendly spaces as long as pets are kept on a 6 ft maximum leash.
Officials said the infected raccoons are no longer a threat to the area, but they will be testing more animals to determine that the virus is gone. Apparently, it's not uncommon to see raccoons in the area.
One Tripadvisor review reads: "Raccoons are UNBELIEVABLE. While maybe kinda bad near the campers, the 'tent' area was HORRIBLE with them. (Dogs in the RV may help deter them. One climbed into the car as we were unpacking. Pulled the plug off of the cooler. Another unzipped the front of the tent and tried to run off with the kids toys. We went to Walmart and came back to find the tent unzipped in 2 places!! They need to deal with this. All night you could hear them. Groups of 2-4. In the trees above the tent. One tried to get in while we were sleeping!"
Raccoons are known for being carriers of the deadly rabies virus too.
Anyone who is at the park and notices any animals acting abnormally is urged to leave the area and report the incident to a park ranger or call the Parks and Conservation Resources Department at 727-582-2100.