Reason Number 17:
Because your vet may have to euthanize one for rabies testing.
Here is the story: A client has been feeding some feral cats in her neighborhood. Always the opportunist, a young raccoon, probably a summer baby, had been visiting, too. Yesterday, while she was feeding them, the 'coon jumped up at her and bit her hand, rather severely.
I got involved when the client's husband called the office yesterday, from the hospital ER where his wife was undergoing a series of most painful treatments and injections. "If I catch the raccoon, can you have it tested for rabies?" he asked. After warning him to be very careful, I assured him I would take on this task.
Today, he showed up with the raccoon in a live trap. It was obvious that this raccoon was sick. To start, it was exhibiting some very odd behavior. It had been showing up in the daytime, and instead of running from a person, it attacked her. This is never a good sign. But, once trapped in the cage, it was not hissing and spitting and trying to get out, it was huddled in one corner, looking very dejected and lethargic.
I worked a snare in through the cage bars and looped it over the raccoon's head and around its neck, so that another person could hold it still while I injected it with a heavy sedative. It didn't even respond to the needle prick or the burning sensation of the injection. After that took effect, I donned a heavy leather glove, reached into the cage and restrained the 'coon while I administered the final injection. It was all over very quickly, and with much less risk than I was anticipating. I got the funniest compliment from the two staff members who watched me work. "Doc," they said, "All we can say is, You have some balls!" I reminded them that I actually had ovaries, but thanked them for the sentiment.
Rabies testing, whether for a raccoon, a dog, or a cat, involves analyzing brain tissue for certain microscopic changes. I will spare you the rest of the details, but let's just say what I had to do next is not in my Top 10 list of things I love about my job.
I feel certain that this raccoon had Canine Distemper Virus, not rabies. Distemper is a viral disease that affects the nervous system and often mimics rabies, which fortunately is extremely rare in our area. Still, you should NOT feed wild raccoons or encourage them to hang around, you should NOT make a pet of a young raccoon, and you should most definitely NEVER, EVER get near a raccoon who acts sick.
My client learned a painful lesson, and in the process, put her husband, me, and two of my staff members at risk for coming in contact with a rabies suspect. No matter how sorry you feel for the raccoons, please don't put yourself, your family, or your favorite veterinarian in this situation.
My health insurance company thanks you.