Are Possums Dangerous to Dogs?

are possums dangerous to dogs

A possum can look pretty intimidating with their long claws and fifty razor-sharp teeth. And with the largest possums reaching the size of a cat, it’s no surprise that pet owners are left wondering whether their dogs are safe around these marsupials.

This can include concerns over dogs getting diseases like rabies from possums, worms, and other infections. Here’s a short answer, followed by more detail on the dangers of possums to dogs.

Are possums dangerous to dogs? Possums can be dangerous to dogs, but they do try to avoid confrontation. A scratch or bite from a possum can hurt a dog, and a dog can get ill from eating a possum in certain cases, although it is rare.

Just how dangerous are possums to dogs then?

Well, the good news is that possums are usually pretty docile rather than dangerous to dogs. That whole teeth-bearing display is just for show and to scare off anything which might be getting a little too close.

So that means that if a dog gives a possum them their space, and then both your dog and the possum will be no threat to each other – but there still can be some dangers as I will explain below.

Do possums attack dogs? 

While they will generally avoid confrontation, there have been instances of possums attacking a dog.

However, when possums do attack dogs, this will typically be when the possum is cornered, can’t get away, and is left with no choice other than to attack to save itself.

Even when threatened, though, possums have another line of defense before deciding to attack, and that’s to play dead.

The stress of the potentially life-threatening situation can cause the possum to go into shock and a comatose state for up to four hours. When playing dead the possum’s body goes limp, and they start to secrete a green mucus from their anal glands, which smells as if they have become a rotten carcass.

It’s important to know that the possum doesn’t choose to respond in this way; it’s a biological response to the severe threat which causes it.

While the ability to play dead is an attempt to save their lives, it sadly also means that many possums are killed on the roads because drivers believe they have already died and so don’t swerve to avoid them.

It can also mean that homeowners believe that this little marsupial is already dead and dispose of the body in the trash or by burying it.

If your dog has attacked a possum and it’s then gone into the dead state, the best option is to bring your dog away from the area and leave the possum to slowly ‘come back to life’ in their own time.

Handy Hint: If you have put roadkill or a dead possum in your trash, please secure it properly so dogs and predators don’t tear into the trash cans. Here are some tips I’ve written about stopping dogs getting into trash bags outside your home to help.

Do dogs scare away possums? 

All animals look for an easy life and won’t put themselves in danger unless they really can’t avoid it. That then means that possums will generally avoid homes where they are dogs unless they are hungry, and your yard provides a source of food.

Possums like to eat fruit, grains, and insects, but they will also eat leftovers from compost piles and garbage cans if they can get into them.

Make sure that any leftover dog food is also removed once your dog has finished eating, as that also makes for a pretty tempting possum treat.

If my dog bites a possum will it get ill?

While it’s very unusual for a dog to get ill and get disease from biting a possum, they carry a range of illnesses that can be transmitted to your dog.

With some of these having the potential for fatal consequences, it becomes incredibly important for your dog to be up to date with all of their vaccinations.

The conditions which can be passed from a possum include:

  • Chagas disease: Caused by the tiny one-celled parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, a possum may bring this parasite into your garden where it then transfers onto your
  • Coccidiosis: Caused by a parasite that lives in the wall of your dog’s intestine, it may not cause any symptoms, but it can be fatal for young pups as it causes a severe infection.
  • Tuberculosis: Although rare, there is the potential for possums to infect our dogs with tuberculosis (TB). Symptoms include a high temperature, loss of appetite, and harsh coughing.
  • Trichomoniasis: Caused by a type of worm called a nematode, trichomoniasis causes cysts in the dog’s muscle tissues
  • Leptospirosis: A severe and often fatal condition, leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that damages the dog’s vital organs. Symptoms do vary but can include a high temperature, muscle pain, and jaundice.

You can be pretty sure that possums also carry fleas, though ticks tend not to be a problem, and that’s because it’s estimated that one possum can eat up to 5,000 ticks in a 2 to 3-month period!

Even if your dog doesn’t come into direct contact with possum, they can still be susceptible to diseases transmitted within the possum’s urine and droppings. Keeping your dog up to date with all the veterinary recommended vaccinations will provide them with the best protection from these types of infections.

Many of the conditions that possums can pass on to dogs can also be transmitted to people. That means that it’s really important to get advice from a reputable pest control company to prevent possums from becoming a problem in your back yard or garden.

Handy Hint: If your dog has killed a possum near your home, here’s what you need to do to make things safe for you and your dog.

Can dogs get rabies from possums?

When a possum is hissing and foaming at the mouth, it can look just like symptoms of rabies. But this is usually just a defensive behavior to try and get anything or anyone they see as a threat to move away.

The good news is that possums very rarely become infected with rabies, and that’s thought to be because they have a much lower body temperature compared to most other warm-blooded animals.

Is Possum Poop Bad for a Dog?

Coprophagia, as poop eating is officially known, is a common, if gross habit that many dogs develop. While it may seem pretty disgusting to us, many dogs delight in this tasty snack of dubious nature… which some dogs liking to eat possum poop!

Generally, dogs that eat possum poop won’t have too many problems unless the dog becomes obsessed with hunting it out. If this is the case, then a vet visit is needed to check for health problems such as parasites, diabetes, and Cushing’s disease, each of which could be the cause of the habit.

In terms of possum poop, you should try to avoid your dog being in a situation where they can consume it, and that’s because diseases such as leptospirosis and salmonella can be transmitted through the feces.

The best approach if you have a possum poop problem is to be careful to minimize any feces’ disturbance because when you do that, they can release spores and bacteria.

If you need to clean a confined space of possum feces such as an attic, you should wear long-sleeved clothes and gloves, along with goggles and a breathing mask to prevent any skin contact. Once collected, the feces can then be placed in a sealed bag or container to be disposed of.

My dog attacked a possum; what should I do? 

If your dog has attacked a possum, there’s a three-step plan to follow;

  1. Immediately get your dog away from the possum: You may find that your dog develops selective hearing when in what they might consider being a very exciting situation, so grab a leash to clip onto their collar to encourage them to move away.
  2. Now carefully check over your dog for any wounds: If they do have any bites, then;
  3. Call the vets: In most situations, they will clean the wound and then prescribe a course of antibiotics.

Before heading to the vets, do check over your dog’s vaccination paperwork to ensure that they are up to date with their shots and take these with you to help your vet decide if any further boosters are necessary.

What happens if a dog eats a possum?

If there is any chance that the possum had been poisoned before your dog got to it, then you need to contact your vet immediately. If there is no threat of poisoning, then your dog may get an upset stomach, sickness, or diarrhea from eating the dead opossum.

This then means that the safest option is not to allow your dog to get into a situation where they might eat a possum to begin with.

Conclusion

Possums can be dangerous to dogs, but in most cases will do their very best to keep away from your pet.

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Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/opossum-possum-animal-wildlife-3861107/

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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