Dogs dream of capturing and consuming squirrels. At least, our dogs do. Left to their own devices, they stand on their hind legs and bark up trees, utterly incensed that these little rodents can scale great heights and they, the dogs, cannot.
But dogs rarely catch squirrels, so the question, if my dog killed a squirrel, should I be worried, isn’t one we ask often.
Sometimes, though, a dog finds an already dead squirrel. Maybe a fox got it first, or a car hit it. If you aren’t fast enough, your dog might be nose-deep in squirrel innards, which naturally begs the question, should you be worried?
Here’s what you need to know about your dog killing a squirrel.
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Do Squirrels Carry Rabies?
This is the primary concern for many people who realize, to their horror, that their dog killed a squirrel.
If my dog kills a squirrel, should I be worried? If you’re asking this question, the answer is no. Not only are squirrels too small to survive with rabies. This is true of most small rodents, including:
- And even if your dog kills a possum
This makes sense when you think about it because if animals this small could spread rabies, the country would be overrun with cats whose hunting instinct caused them to contract the disease.
Instead, if a squirrel receives a rabid bite, the infection kills it before it has time to infect anyone else.
Can Eating Dead Squirrels Give Your Dog Rabies?
So, squirrels don’t run around transmitting rabies, but what about those dead squirrels your dog stumbles across? If your dog eats a dead squirrel, should you be worried?
The answer is still no. Even assuming the squirrel your dog finds and eats died of rabies, it can’t transmit it posthumously.
To start with, squirrels have incredibly rapid metabolisms. So, they process everything they eat and that enters the bloodstream quickly.
More importantly, the rabies virus isn’t communicable through:
- Unbroken skin
Watching your dog kill and eat a dead squirrel is horrifying for many reasons, but rest assured that one thing they cannot contract while doing this is rabies. On the other hand, you may be put off woodland walks for life. We’d completely understand.
There are two other things to remember about squirrels that died of rabies. First, rabies only survives in squirrels for the first 24-48 hours. After that, the virus isn’t live.
Secondly, and crucially, rabies isn’t airborne. Your dog cannot inhale it, even if they can inhale a squirrel at an alarming rate. In the open air, rabies dies rapidly.
This means that while there’s a slim chance your dog could contract rabies from a brief interaction with a squirrel it killed or found, the odds are negligible.
Could My Dog Get Worms From Killing a Squirrel?
Regrettably, the answer to this one is yes. Rabies won’t live long inside dead squirrels, but worms are tenacious critters.
One of the most common parasites dogs get from squirrels is roundworm, usually because they eat the larvae along with the squirrel. The larvae don’t care whose gut they live in, so transfer happily from squirrel to dog with no concern for your vet bill.
Signs of roundworms include:
- Weight loss
- ‘Pot belly’ appearance
- Dull coat/fur
While roundworms are unpleasant whatever age the dog, they’re particularly nasty when they occur in puppies. That’s because, while the dog is still growing, roundworms can encyst (embed themselves in) the muscle tissue. Encysted roundworms can go undetected for years and can stop your dog maturing properly.
So, if your puppy kills a squirrel, scheduling a routine vet visit earlier than you planned is a good idea.
Could a Squirrel Bite My Dog?
Squirrels have sharp little teeth. They’re ideal for cracking nuts, and they’re guaranteed to puncture your dog’s skin.
If you notice a cut on your dog after their great squirrel battle, start by cleaning the wound and treating it with antiseptic. Afterward, ensure your dog can’t lick or clean the wound themselves. You want to keep it clean, and that means keeping it away from your dog’s tongue.
Monitor the wound for signs of infection, like:
Most cuts from squirrels occur on your dog’s lips or nose. However, if they develop on a furred part of your dog, remove any fur from around the area before you start cleaning.
If it’s a deep wound, visit the vet.
Other Problems to Look Out For
So, rabies is an unlikely issue if your dog kills a squirrel. But rabies isn’t the only thing your dog can get from dead animals.
If your dog recently killed a squirrel, the thing you should worry about isn’t rabies. It’s whether your neighbors put down rodenticides. These are pellets full of toxic chemicals that, at the correct dosage, kill off unwanted pests.
It’s one thing to lay them in your crawl space because it’s unlikely the dog next door’s dog will get up there. But if they put rodenticides around the perimeter of the property and those pellets kill the squirrel, then even with their fast metabolism, those toxins might still be in the squirrel when your dog eats it.
But because the rodent ingested the poison first, the good news is that it’s diluted by the time your dog gets to it. Symptoms will also vary, depending on the size and weight of your dog.
If a medium to large dog eats a poisoned squirrel, watch for:
However, small dogs may have a significantly stronger reaction, and in some cases, may need immediate veterinary care. Seek emergency treatment if your dog exhibits:
- Bloody urine
- Nosebleeds or bleeding gums
- Coughing/gagging or wheezing
- Panting or labored breathing
Treatment for vicarious poisoning involves either stomach pumping or activated charcoal. It is extremely important that you not try administering charcoal yourself. It might sound like the stuff left over from a fire, but it’s not.
By trying to administer charcoal yourself, you risk your dog inhaling it instead of swallowing it. This can be dangerous.
Killing squirrels taps into dogs’ hunting instincts. It’s also an unlikely victory that most city dogs are unlikely to repeat more than once. Crucially, if they do kill a squirrel, it’s unlikely they’ll become sick, and anything they do pick up should resolve on its own.
That said, you know your dog best. If, after your dog eats a squirrel, you notice atypical behavior, stool consistency, or urination frequency, don’t hesitate to call the vet. Prompt medical intervention will help clear up lingering symptoms and have your dog back chasing squirrels in no time.