The Prevalence of Leptospira interrogans and Intestinal Parasites in the Wild Raccoons (Procyon lotor) on the Grounds of the Minnesota Zoo
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2008
Daniel W. Pesek1, BS; James Rasmussen2, DVM; Ava M. Trent1, DVM, MVSc, DAVCS; Tiffany M. Wolf2, DVM; Michelle Willette3, DVM; Kenneth R. Harkin4, DVM, DACVIM
1Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN, USA; 2Minnesota Zoological Garden, Apple Valley, MN, USA; 3The Raptor Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN, USA; 4College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, USA


The raccoon (Procyon lotor) is a known reservoir of zoonotic diseases throughout North America.2,5 Since the raccoon is a potential host for many pathogens that can affect domestic and exotic species, its presence on the Minnesota Zoo grounds may present a disease risk to collection animals.1-4 Enteric parasites and Leptospira interrogans sensu lato are the major pathogens of concern in this study. They have been diagnosed in collection animals and have the potential to be transmitted from raccoons to other animals or people. Information on the type and prevalence of these pathogens in indigenous raccoons is important in managing raccoon-human and raccoon-animal interactions. Raccoons were live trapped on the Minnesota Zoo grounds during the summer of 2007 and urine, blood, and feces were collected for analysis. Blood was tested by microscopic agglutination testing for six serovars of L. interrogans and urine was tested by PCR for shedding of L. interrogans. Feces were evaluated by standard floatation and sedimentation methods, in addition to direct smears, to determine the prevalence and type of intestinal parasites.

Serum was analyzed from 20 raccoons and urine from 17. Only one raccoon had a positive serum Leptospira titer for the serovars Grippotyphosa and Icterohemorrhagiae. This raccoon was PCR negative, as were all the others tested. The roundworm, Baylisascaris procyonis, was not as prevalent as expected, with only 2 out of 19 (11%) positive. The trematode, Alaria sp., was more prevalent, with 11 of 19 (58%) positive. This study will continue in the summer of 2008.


The authors would like to thank the Minnesota Zoo and those people who aided with this research, including Jen Pollard, CVT; Jenny Prom, CVT; Dr. Roberto Cortinas; Dr. Bert Stromberg; Dr. Susanne Prouty; and many others.

Literature Cited

1.  Appel MJ, Yates RA, Foly GL, Bernstein JJ, Santinelli S, Spelman LH, et al. Canine distemper epizootic in lions, tigers, and leopards in North America. J Vet Diag Invest. 1994;6:277–288.

2.  Bigler WJ, Jenkins JH, Cumbie PM, Hoff GL, Prather EC. Wildlife and environmental health: raccoons as indicators of zoonoses and pollutants in southeastern United States. JAVMA. 1975;167:592–597.

3.  Frolich K, Streich WJ, Fickel J, Jung S, Truyen U, Hentschke J, et al. Epizootiologic investigations of parvovirus infections in free-ranging carnivores from Germany. J Wildl Dis. 2005;41:231–235.

4.  Kirkpatrick CM, Kanitz CL, McCrocklin SM. Possible role of wild mammals in transmission of pseudorabies to swine. J Wildl Dis. 1980;16:601–614.

5.  Richardson DJ, Gauthier JL. A serosurvey of leptospirosis in Connecticut peridomestic wildlife. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases. 2003;3:187–193.


Speaker Information
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Daniel W. Pesek, BS
Department of Veterinary Population Medicine
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Minnesota
Saint Paul, MN, USA

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