How Dangerous Are Raccoon Roundworms?
How Dangerous Are Raccoon Roundworms?
We’re all familiar with raccoons, right? They’re incredibly adorable and surprisingly intelligent creatures—some people even keep them as pets! However, as harmless as raccoons generally are, they’re notorious for being carriers of a particular species of roundworms commonly known as raccoon roundworms.
Now, these roundworms are not only dangerous to your pets, but also to you and other members of your family. Since raccoons are one of the most common wildlife found roaming the neighborhood, it’s important to know how to protect yourself from getting infected. Read on to know more about raccoon roundworms!
What Are Raccoon Roundworms?
Raccoon roundworms, scientifically known as Bayliscaris procyonis, are intestinal parasites that live inside raccoons. Every time an infected raccoon poops, millions of tiny eggs are shed into the environment. If not removed immediately, the eggs grow into adult roundworms and infect those that accidentally come into contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.
In the neighborhood, raccoons tend to do their “business” under decks or patios, on porches, inside garages or attics, and areas where there are piles of wood or tree stumps. These locations of choice are called raccoon latrines.
What Does Raccoon Poop Look Like?
Raccoon feces are typically about 2 to 3 inches long and a bit elongated. They’re dark in color and often contain undigested food, like fruit seeds or peels and pieces of vegetables.
Why Are Raccoon Roundworms So Dangerous?
Raccoon roundworms are considered a threat to both animals and humans because not only are they known to be highly capable of crossing between a variety of species, but they can also cause a lot of severe health issues that may sometimes lead to death.
The scary thing is that you, as a human, can contract the worms indirectly from infected raccoons, or your pet—whether it’s a cat, a dog, a rat, or even a rabbit—if they happen to pick up the roundworms from the environment. Since the eggs are tiny enough not to be seen by the naked eye, they can easily enter the body unnoticed.
What Do Raccoon Roundworms Do to the Body?
After a person or an animal unknowingly swallows raccoon roundworm eggs, larvae mature in the small intestines and eventually migrate into the bloodstream, where they’re distributed to different organs and cause tissue damage. In humans, symptoms of infection include nausea, weakness or fatigue, liver enlargement, loss of coordination or muscle control, blindness, and coma. In some cases, it leads to brain damage and death.
However, there are also reports of people testing positive for raccoon roundworms but then display no signs of infection at all. So, it’s safe to say that they’re not always deadly for humans. Unfortunately, though, we can’t say the same for animals.
Once they contract the roundworms, infection is almost always fatal. Make sure to look out for outward signs like circling, disorientation, difficulty walking, loss of coordination, tiredness, and seizures. If you suspect that your pet is infected, take them to the animal hospital right away.
How Do I Protect Myself and My Pet?
Do not feed raccoons
Since raccoons mainly wander around the neighborhood to look for some grub, it’s very important not to encourage them. Don’t approach or feed any raccoons in your community, especially around your home. Also, refrain from leaving leftovers, food scraps, or your dog’s food bowl outside.
Another thing you can do is to make sure that all of your garbage bins are secured and tightly closed. If you have a compost pit, it’s best to cover it with something that can’t be removed or knocked over by raccoons.
Raccoons are really smart animals, and you’ll be surprised at how resourceful they can be, so double-check everything. If you see any raccoons in your area, make sure your pet doesn’t go near them and contact your local animal control office right away.
Remove raccoon feces right away
It takes about 2 to 4 weeks for raccoon feces to become infective, so the moment you see raccoon feces on your porch, in your yard, or any other location around your home, clean the area immediately. Be sure to wear a disposable N95 dust mask, a pair of disposable gloves, disposable coveralls or old clothes that you don’t mind throwing away afterward, and rubber boots, to keep yourself from accidentally inhaling or coming into contact with dried fecal particles or feces. To make things easier for you, we’ve put together a roundworm disinfection gear set here.
If it’s outside, you can use a shovel to scoop the raccoon feces and put them inside a plastic bag. After doing that, the bag should be burned. Raccoon roundworms are resistant to household cleaners and BLEACH, but they can be killed using heat.
If it’s inside, pour water into a spray bottle and dampen the raccoon latrine a little bit. Once the feces have softened, scoop them up using a small shovel or a disposable plastic spoon, then place them inside a plastic bag, and burn them. After that, get a disposable sponge and dip it in a mixture of soap and hot water. Use it to wipe the area clean. Rinse the area with boiling water afterward to kill any remaining raccoon roundworm eggs.