The World Health Organization is calling on Chinese officials to release data linking raccoon dogs to the coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan, China. With this request, many are left wondering: what exactly is a raccoon dog? To put it simply, raccoon dogs are wild dogs that resemble raccoons in terms of their fur markings and head shape. While they are native to East Asia, they were introduced to Europe through the fur farming industry and have become an invasive species. Raccoon dogs have been linked to other diseases, including a coronavirus similar to SARS that was found in animals sold for food at a live animal market in China in 2003. They have also been found to carry enteric viruses that can be transmitted to humans. While these animals may be cute, they are not suitable as pets and can pose a threat to native wildlife if released into the wild.
Important Details about What is a raccoon dog? : NPR –
– The World Health Organization is asking Chinese officials to release data that may show a link between raccoon dogs and the coronavirus.
– Raccoon dogs were being sold at a seafood and meat market in Wuhan, China, where researchers found evidence of the coronavirus in January 2020.
– Raccoon dogs are a wild dog whose face looks like a raccoon’s and are a member of the canid family with fur markings and head shapes similar to those of raccoons.
– They are native to East Asia, including parts of China, Korea and Japan, and are now an invasive species throughout northern and western Europe.
– Raccoon dogs have been linked to other diseases, including carrying viruses similar to the SARS virus found in humans in a 2003 outbreak and a novel strain of the SARS virus in 2004.
– In a 2022 study, wild animals known to be eaten by humans, including raccoon dogs, carried 102 different viruses from 13 viral families.
– Raccoon dogs specifically carried four canine coronaviruses that were genetically similar to those found in humans, confirming the danger of live animal markets.
– Raccoon dogs are not domesticated pets and are difficult to manage in enclosures or small spaces, plus they have a strong odor and can threaten native wildlife if released into the wild.
A Raccoon Dog Looks Out of its Cage in a Chinese Live Animal Market in January 2004: Could They Have Been the Initial Host of COVID-19?
In January 2020, researchers found evidence of the coronavirus in a seafood and meat market in Wuhan, China, where raccoon dogs were being sold. This sparked many questions about the nature of these animals and whether they could have served as an initial host for the virus that causes COVID-19. The World Health Organization is asking Chinese officials to release data that may show a link between raccoon dogs and the coronavirus. Here, we’ll explore what raccoon dogs are, their history of transmitting diseases, and why they should not be kept as pets.
What are Raccoon Dogs?
Raccoon dogs are a member of the canid family with fur markings and head shapes similar to those of raccoons. They are omnivorous and are native to East Asia, including parts of China, Korea, and Japan. While they are more closely related to foxes than domesticated dogs, raccoon dogs are a completely different species from coonhounds, which are a domesticated breed of scenthound also known as a coon dog. Breeding from the fur farming industry introduced thousands of them throughout the former Soviet Union, and they’re now a widespread invasive species throughout northern and western Europe. They prefer to live in forests and dense vegetation as well as areas bordering the water.
Raccoon Dogs and Disease Transmission
Raccoon dogs have been linked to the transmission of various diseases, including coronaviruses. In 2003, raccoon dogs and related mammals sold for food at a live animal market in China were found to carry a coronavirus similar to the virus found in humans during a SARS coronavirus outbreak at the time. In 2004, Chinese health officials ordered the slaughter of 10,000 animals set to be sold at market, including raccoon dogs, after a man tested positive for a novel strain of the SARS virus, raising fears of another outbreak.
Research shows that live markets in China and elsewhere pose a significant risk for disease transmission. A 2022 study took samples from about 2,000 animals of 18 different species from across settings in China, including natural habitats, zoos, and fur farms. It found that wild animals known to be eaten by humans, including raccoon dogs, carried 102 different viruses from 13 viral families. Twenty-one of those pose a high risk to humans, either because they had infected people before or had a history of jumping between species with ease. Raccoon dogs specifically carried four canine coronaviruses that were genetically similar to those found in humans. They also carried enteric viruses, or viruses that are transmitted when infected fecal matter enters the mouth or nose.
The Danger of Keeping Raccoon Dogs as Pets
Many people are drawn to the appearance of raccoon dogs and may consider keeping them as pets, but this is not recommended. Raccoon dogs are wild animals, not domesticated pets. They live in large home ranges, meaning they need lots of space and are difficult to manage in enclosures or other small spaces, according to the U.K.’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Additionally, raccoon dogs have a strong odor because they use scent to communicate, making them a poor indoor house guest. And if a raccoon dog escapes or is released into the wild, it can threaten native wildlife in the parts of the world where it isn’t native. Overall, raccoon dogs should not be kept as pets, and more research is needed to understand their role in disease transmission and its implications for public health.
In conclusion, the potential link between raccoon dogs and the transmission of COVID-19 raises important questions about the role of live markets and the risks of disease transmission from wild animals to humans. While raccoon dogs may appear cute and tempting as pets, it is important to remember that they are wild animals and should not be taken out of their natural habitats. More research is needed to better understand the risks of disease transmission from wild animals and how this can be prevented to safeguard global public health.