Opossums, commonly known as possums don’t just come out at night. Unlike other nocturnal animals like hedgehogs and foxes, possums can also be found during the day looking for snacks. This puts them at risk of being in contact with your dog, particularly those with a high prey drive!
In this guide I will explain what to do if your dog had a possum in his mouth. The main focus is whether diseases and illnesses could be risk if the dog kill a possum.
My dog killed a possum? If your dog killed and ate a possum, don’t be too worried. The chance of your dog contracting rabies is slim, and providing your dog has been vaccinated, the risk of contracting disease from a possum is said to be slim.
The bottom line is this; serious diseases like rabies are extremely rare in possums. Possums can carry various diseases such as coccidiosis, tuberculosis. That sounds scary, but your dog should be protected from most diseases if they are up to date with their vaccinations.
In the remainder of this guide, I will explain some of the potential risks of your dog killing a possum and whether you should be worried, or when. It will also include the best course of action to take if your dog kills a possum and how to stop an attack in the first place.
Can dogs get diseases from possums?
In rare cases, dogs can get diseases from possums. Just like with many wild creatures, possums can potentially carry a range of diseases that can be transmitted to dogs.
Some of these diseases, which in some cases can be fatal, include Chagas disease, coccidiosis, tuberculosis, trichomoniasis, and leptospirosis.
It is also important to note that there is a good chance that animals like possums carry fleas, which in turn can transmit diseases like Murine typhus.
Further to this, even if your dog doesn’t attack or kill a possum, there is a chance that any urine and droppings they leave behind can also carry and transmit these diseases to your dog.
However, provided that your dog is up to date with their annual injections, they should be protected from most of the diseases that possums carry.
But, if you’re ever not so sure, it is important to consult your vet for advice, treatment and potential booster shots if your dog had a possum in his mouth or killed and ate one.
Can dogs get rabies from possums?
A big worry for a lot of owners whose dog has killed or attacked a possum is whether their dog can get rabies from the possum. However, you will be pleased to know that the chances of this happening are extremely rare.
Possums are known for having a low body temperature in comparison to other mammals – according to the Opossum Society, their average body temperature is between 94 and 97 degrees. The low body temperature of a possum makes it difficult for pathogens like the rabies virus to survive in them.
Yet, it is important to note that whilst it is very unlikely for a possum to have rabies, it isn’t impossible. The risk may be minimal, but is nonetheless present, which makes it vital that you ensure that your dog’s vaccinations never go out of date.
These vaccinations will protect your dog from diseases like rabies, meaning that they may well save them from dying from the disease or having to be put to sleep as a result of it.
My dog attacked a possum; what should I do?
If your dog has attacked a possum, take the following steps;
- Get away from the possum: Do not scare aware the possum, instead just get you and your dog away from it as soon as possible as it might attack again. The likelihood is that it will have already run away though.
- Examine your dog for wounds: If your dog has been bitten by a possum, it should be fairly obvious, so check the fur and skin for wounds. If they have been bitten, do the following:
- Call the vets: If your dog has bitten by a possum, call your vet to discuss the options. In most cases they will clean the wound and prescribe antibiotics. This might include giving them a rabies booster, just in case.
You should also make sure to bring any paperwork related to your dog’s previous vaccinations with you to the vet. This will help the vet to determine whether emergency booster shots for illnesses like rabies are necessary.
Your vet will be able to not only properly attend to your dog’s wounds, but also test them for any diseases and provide them with pain relief, so a trip to the vets is always necessary after a possum attack, even if your dog appears fine.
Some wounds may be small and hidden underneath the fur.
My dog killed a possum, but why?
All dogs are descended from wild wolves. In the wild, kibble wasn’t readily available for wolves, so they had to hunt and kill their own prey like birds, squirrels, rabbits, rodents and, indeed, possums.
Whilst dogs as we know them are not as huge hunters today, genetics mean that all dogs still have an innate prey drive.
This means that if your dog sees a small animal, they will consider them prey, and then get the impulse to catch and kill it.
Every dog is different, so the strength of each dog’s prey drive can vary, but you can usually expect certain breeds – namely, breeds that were trained and bred to hunting dogs – to have stronger prey drives than others.
Some of the breeds with the strongest prey drives are as follows:
|Airedale Terriers||Irish Wolfhounds|
|Alaskan Malamutes||Jack Russell Terriers|
|Australian Cattle Dogs||Pharaoh Hounds|
|Bull Mastiffs||Shiba Inus|
|Bull Terriers||Siberian Huskies|
|English Springer Spaniels||Yorkshire Terriers|
So, on the one hand, if your dog occasionally kills a possum or other small animals, you shouldn’t be too worried, especially if they have a naturally high prey drive – it is just part of their nature.
Handy Hint: My dogs absolutely hate squirrels. Read this guide to see why this is and what you can do about a dog that loves to chase them.
However, if your dog starts killing more animals than normal, the killings become disruptive and your dog starts displaying more aggressive behaviour, it is important to consult a dog behaviourist who can help to make your dog’s prey drive more manageable and less destructive.
This can you’re your dog’s behaviour from escalating and prevent anyone from potentially getting hurt in the future.
Disclaimer: If your dog ate a possum or has been attacked, please always seek professional advice. The notes in this guide are based on my own online research.
Whilst possums can actually be quite handy for your garden or yard as they eat unwanted pests like bugs, slugs and rodents – they can be cause for concern for a dog owner.
For the most part, if your dog kills a possum, it isn’t a cause for concern. The chances of possums carrying a disease like rabies are so minimal that when combined with up to date vaccinations, the chance of your dog contracting that disease – or any other one for that matter – are next to impossible.
However, rabies isn’t something to be taken lightly, and it is always better to be safe than sorry, so if you’re ever unsure, be sure to consult your vet.
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Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/possum-rodent-opossum-animal-478162/