Squirrels are adorable creatures who are fun to watch as they scurry up trees in search of food. Raccoons, with their seemingly masked faces, are also cute. However, regardless of how cuddly they may seem, squirrels and raccoons are wild animals that can be a nuisance. Squirrels and raccoons can cause significant property damage, and raccoons can be aggressive. Furthermore, squirrels and raccoons may be carriers of harmful diseases.
Here are a few diseases squirrels and raccoons may transmit:
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection of the blood. This disease affects both animals and humans. In humans, leptospirosis can cause symptoms such as high fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, chills, muscle aches, and respiratory distress. In severe cases, leptospirosis may lead to jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) due to liver damage. Leptospirosis can also lead to meningitis, kidney failure, and even death.
A person may contract leptospirosis if they come in contact with soil or water that has been contaminated with the urine of an infected animal while they have an open wound. If a person eats food, such as unwashed fruit, that has been contaminated with urine from a squirrel or raccoon, they may also be infected.
Dogs may get leptospirosis, but cats are rarely affected by this disease. A dog may become infected if it comes in direct contact with infected urine or urine-contaminated soil, water, food, or bedding. They may also contract leptospirosis if an infected animal bites them, or if they eat an infected carcass. Leptospirosis in dogs causes a range of symptoms including fever, muscle tenderness, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, yellowing of the skin, and difficulty breathing. Canine leptospirosis can sometimes cause nosebleeds or blood in urine, stool, vomit, or saliva. If left untreated, canine leptospirosis will likely lead to death.
Lyme disease is another bacterial infection that may be transmitted by squirrels and raccoons. This disease is carried by ticks that get it from feeding on the blood of an infected animal before biting a human being. Most people who have been infected with Lyme disease will notice a circular, expanding rash at the site of the tick bite. Fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes are also symptoms of Lyme disease in the early stages.
Several weeks or months after the initial bite, an infected person may start to notice symptoms like rashes all over the body, rapid heart rate, weakness in the limbs, facial-muscle paralysis, and memory lapses. Late-stage Lyme disease may cause arthritis, numbness, compromised motor function, and confusion. In extreme cases, Lyme disease may also cause inflammation of the heart muscle.
A tick carrying Lyme disease may also infect a dog or cat, although cases are uncommon in cats. In a dog or cat, Lyme disease can lead to fever, lethargy, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, and joint stiffness and swelling. Lyme diseases may also affect a dog’s or cat’s kidneys, nervous system, and heart, and may lead to death.
Baylisascaris (Raccoon Roundworm)
Baylisascaris is an infection that is caused by a roundworm that mainly lives in the intestine of raccoons. Since raccoons are the primary hosts, this type of parasite is often called raccoon roundworm, but it can also be found in other wild animals, including squirrels. When squirrels or raccoons have roundworms, they usually deposit eggs in their feces. These eggs can survive in the soil for several years. If someone unknowingly ingests roundworm eggs, by eating unwashed, fallen fruit, for example, the eggs may hatch in the body where they can cause serious illness.
Although Baylisascaris infections are rare in BC, infected humans may experience nausea, fatigue, enlarged liver, muscle spasms, tremors, progressive weakness, blindness, or coma. In dogs, Baylisascaris may cause unsteady walking, difficulty swallowing, lethargy, seizures, and confusion. Most dogs with Baylisascaris will recover; however, the disease is typically fatal in puppies. Raccoon roundworm is not prevalent in cats.
Preventing diseases from squirrels and raccoons
The first step in preventing diseases caused by squirrels and raccoons is to discourage the pests from occupying spaces around your property. If you see squirrels or raccoons, refrain from feeding them and ensure you store all pet food indoors. If you have bins in your yard, they should have secure lids that prevent pests from gaining access. Be sure as well to clean your grill after every use. If you notice squirrel or raccoon droppings around your yard, exercise caution when cleaning those areas.
If you discover a squirrel nest or raccoon den, do not attempt removal yourself. Squirrels and raccoons will attack if they feel threatened, especially if their young are present. A squirrel attack may result in cuts and scratches, while raccoons have sharp teeth and claws that are strong enough to inflict significant harm. Your best option is to contact a pest control company for squirrel removal or raccoon removal. A pest control professional will have the necessary tools and skills to remove squirrels and raccoons without incident.
Are you searching for a Vancouver pest control company?
If you need squirrel removal or raccoon removal in Vancouver, we can help at Pest Detective. For over 30 years, we have kept homes in Vancouver and the lower mainland free from squirrels and raccoons using humane pest control solutions.