If you live in a green area you probably have a few wild “guests” in your yard every now and then, including possums. These little animals usually come out at night looking for food and if your dog has free access to the yard they might hunt them down.
If your dog killed a possum, you should keep the marsupial for the Animal Control and check if your dog has a bite or scratch marks. Possums rarely carry rabies, while open wounds get infected easily and should be treated as soon as possible.
What should you do if your dog kills a possum?
If your dog caught a possum, use the “leave it” command to make them drop it.
In 2015 George Wilson was playing in his yard with his Golden Retriever Gavin when the animal dashed into the near woods for no apparent reason.
Upon returning, the dog had a possum in his mouth and George was shocked because Gavin had never hunted or shown interest in wild animals before. A quick but stern “leave it” after, Gavin had given up on his prey.
George had the quick wit to throw the possum into a trash bag and give a thorough bath to his dog, before bringing him to the vet, because it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Luckily, Gavin had all his rabies shots updated and the possum tested negative for rabies. Their little adventure ended happily, but after that, George installed some fences around his yard.
George and Gavin’s story is the perfect example of what you should do if your dog attacks a possum.
Your first priority should be to check if your dog is hurt or bleeding because sometimes possums can fight back even against large breed dogs.
If your dog has blood in their mouth, consider the possibility that your dog bit the possum and therefore that is not their blood. For no reason, you should touch the possum or your dog without gloves in this situation.
The wounds should be taken care of immediately to avoid infections. You can wash them with warm water or hydrogen peroxide, then apply antibiotics around it before wrapping it.
It is recommended to bring your dog to the veterinarian because you may miss some small wounds or punctures and your vet could suggest alternative therapies or additional medications upon examining your dog.
If your dog ate a possum, it is mandatory that you have them examined, because possums just like many other stray animals could carry diseases that could be transmitted to humans.
What should you do if your dog killed a possum with rabies?
Possums usually do not carry rabies because they usually don’t survive predatory attacks and their body temperature is too low to be an ideal environment for the rabies pathogen to grow and spread.
Nonetheless, in some rare cases, possums can carry rabies. In the case, you notice possum bite marks on your dog, but you’re not sure when it was the last time they had their rabies shot, call your veterinarian. They have your dog’s medical history and should be able to tell you right away if you need to come in.
If your dog is up to date with their shots, there should be nothing to worry about. However, it would be safer to still have your dog checked.
Whether your dog killed a baby possum or an adult possum, the chances of finding rabies in the possums are the same and are luckily very low.
However, if you want peace of mind after your dog attacked a possum and you still have the dead animal, you can have them tested for rabies.
Using all the precautions and being careful not to touch the possum with your bare hands, wrap it in a garbage bag and store it in a cold place, but don’t let it freeze because it could destroy the evidence of infection.
Call your local animal control and follow their instructions. If the rabies test is possible, the possum will be tested and you should have the results shortly.
Mind that you’re going to have to pay for the test yourself, but it’s better than be left with the doubt until it’s too late to do anything about it.
Unfortunately, if the possum turns out infected, keep in mind that pets that come in contact with rabies are usually euthanized to avoid the spreading of the virus to other animals and to the family members.
If, as it usually happens, the possum turns out clean, consider your dog a very lucky one and take all the precautions so that it doesn’t happen again. When a dog and a possum meet, the risk is mostly on the side of the possum, but it doesn’t mean your dog should try their luck more than once.
Do possums bite dogs?
Despite their sometimes scary appearance, possums are very peaceful animals that only go out to fetch food and will not try to hurt other animals or children. Not only possums rarely attack first, they usually do not attack even when they’re threatened.
If a possum bites a dog, the dog must have scared them greatly. Possums are scared easily and will freeze immediately if they think they’re in danger because it will confuse predators and make them leave most of the time.
This defense mechanism is so engraved in their DNA, that it’s not a voluntary action. When a possum feels threatened, their brain triggers a chain reaction that involves all the muscles in the body.
The possum will go into a paralysis that could last up to several hours and it’s usually a golden time to move the possum out of your yard and somewhere else safe and away from your dog.
The common phrase “play dead” actually comes from this peculiar self-defense mechanism of possums. They are so good at it that it may be hard to understand if they’re dead or alive, which could make testing them for rabies a little harder.
Nonetheless, if a possum feels cornered, they might decide to fight back. Possums have around 50 sharp little fangs and very sharp claws, so they could cause quite a bit of damage to your dog.
How to prevent your dog from attacking possums.
In these situations, our dogs are usually the aggressors. There is something about possums that seems irresistible to dogs, but it would be unsafe to let them run after any wild animal in our yards.
Since possums usually sleep during the day and only come out at night, it could be enough to restrict outdoor access to your dog at night. If you can’t let them sleep inside, make them spend the night in the garage or in a similar place.
Make sure your dog doesn’t spend time outside unsupervised. Teach them the right commands for these situations, so they know when to stop running after prey and when to leave it.
Depending on the dog, this may not always be easy because some dogs are “slower” than others. In that case, building a fence around your yard or making sure your dog is never alone outside could be an alternative solution.
How to keep possums out of your yard.
Being possums nocturnal animals, it will be fairly easy to keep them and other wildlife out of your yard. It will be enough to have strong lights on at night so that your yard is always well-illuminated.
Remember to remove food bowls and any other items that wild animals could find interesting before retiring for the night.
If you’ve seen animals around your garbage bins, you can make a 50:50 solution of ammonia and water and spray it around the area you want the animals to keep away from.
Rabies in dogs.
If there’s a chance your dog has come in contact with an animal affected by rabies, your dog will need to be quarantined and kept isolated for at least 45 days.
Rabies progresses slowly and symptoms may appear within a few days or even after months.
A dog with rabies will be almost unrecognizable, as most of them have drastic changes in behavior and become really aggressive. Other symptoms of rabies are:
- Lack of coordination
- Inability to swallow with consequent dehydration/starvation
If any of these symptoms show up, you’re obligated to report it to your veterinarian. After assessing the situation, if the diagnosis of rabies is confirmed, your dog will be euthanized and their brain will be examined to study the virus.
If your dog is vaccinated, they shouldn’t catch rabies. However, there’s no vaccine that works 100%, so it is always better to proceed with the right safety measures to avoid spreading the virus to other animals and people.
When you’re in doubt, check your local laws and guidelines about rabies and rabies vaccines. Usually, the first shot is given to puppies at three months of age and then repeated every year.
Can a possum kill a dog?
Dogs are more likely to kill possums than the contrary, and possums aren’t known for being great fighters, but the possibility of a possum killing a small dog cannot be excluded.
Usually, possums do not go around looking for fights, so your dog will be the villain of the situation. Possums rarely fight back, but if they do, your dog may bear serious signs in the aftermath of the battle.
It is important to take care of all the wounds properly and to have both dog and possum examined. The possum can only be examined for rabies if they’re dead and you kept their body intact.
In the absence of the possum, your dog will be quarantined as a safety measure, to see if they develop rabies. However, a dog that is regularly vaccinated against rabies should be alright.