An article by Dr. Ann Britton of British Columbia’s Animal Health Centre (AHC) on the blog site healthywildlife.ca is another reminder of the perils of raccoon poop. Over a 2 year period, 17 raccoons were submitted to the AHC for necropsy, and 12 (71%) of them were infected with Baylisascaris procyonis, the raccoon roundworm. The number of animals tested was small, and the number of infected raccoons is not surprising given similar results of other studies of raccoons in various areas, but it’s a good reminder that a large percentage of raccoons are infected with this parasite, and can shed massive numbers of eggs per day.
“So what?” you might say.
While human infections are very rare, they’re devastating and typically result in death or severe brain damage.
Some key points:
- Consider all raccoons infected with roundworms, and all raccoon poop contaminated.
- “Old” raccoon poop is the bigger concern. The roundworm eggs have to mature in the feces for a few days before they are able to infect people or other animals. However, once they’ve done that, they are very hardy and can survive for long periods of time in the environment.
- Raccoons tend to poop in the same spot day after day. These raccoon latrines can have massive egg burdens.
- Care should be taken when handling raccoon feces or when cleaning up a raccoon latrine. More info about cleaning up raccoon latrines can be found in a previous Worms & Germs post on this topic.
- Rarely, dogs can also become infected by the raccoon roundworm. Dogs should be kept away from raccoon latrines because of the potential for infection and (maybe of greater concern) the potential for them to carry Baylisascaris eggs into the house on their haircoat.