My dog bit a possum? Help! Many wild forest animals carry diseases, toxins, are infectious, or just generally nasty. So if your dog has had a run-in with one, you have a right to be concerned.
Possums, properly known as Opossums, mostly come out at night but not exclusively. Like foxes and hedgehogs, they can sometimes be seen out in the daylight foraging for food. If your dog has gotten into a scuffle with a possum, you will need to take care to protect his health.
My dog attacked a possum? If your dog has eaten a possum, chances are slim that he will contract rabies.
What Should I Do If My Dog Attacked a Possum?
The first thing you should do is get yourself and your dog away from the possum. Do not attempt to engage with the possum or scare it away. Just focus on getting you and your dog away from it. Then check your dog for injuries, and call the vet.
It is very rare that a possum will carry rabies, but not impossible. But they can carry diseases like tuberculosis and coccidiosis. Those may sound frightening, but if your dog is current on his vaccinations, then he should be well protected. If your dog is not up on vaccines, then you should get him to the vet. In any event, if your dog had a possum in his mouth, ate one, or was bitten by one, a booster shot is a good idea.
Who Started It?
It may sound like a silly question, but it isn’t. If your dog started the fight, then that is normal – naughty, but normal. If the possum started the fight, that is far from normal and is a strong indicator that the possum may be rabid. If you happened to see the encounter, and know for a fact that the possum aggressively attacked your dog without first trying to get away, then your first move should be to wrap your dog in a blanket and get him to the vet ASAP.
What if My Dog Was in a Serious Fight?
Most often, when your dog has been in a fight with another animal, you won’t have seen the other animal. You don’t know if it was a rabid raccoon, a poisonous snake, another dog, or what have you. If possible, you should break up the fight without getting in the middle of it yourself. Air horns are good for this as is your garden hose. Then clean your dog’s injuries with running water, warm water if possible.
Next, you should check your dog’s injuries. Are they in a vital location like the neck or the chest? Then check your dog’s heartbeat. If there is no heartbeat, CPR is an option. If your dog is in shock, his heartbeat and breathing may be rapid and erratic. Keep him warm, keep his head below his body, and get him to the vet right away.
Control the Bleeding
During this time, you may need to be working to control the bleeding. As you would do with a person, apply pressure on or above the wound if bleeding is not stopping. Dogs are not as prone to uncontrollable bleeding as humans, so only very bad wounds will bleed uncontrollably.
Clean the Wound
Use any antiseptic ointments you may have on hand and clean around the injury. Warm water and unscented soap is a good alternative if that’s all you have. If your dog is in a great deal of pain, it’s probably best to have your vet perform these actions. Otherwise, your dog may bite you, and possibly spread any diseases he picked up to you.
Using an ice pack will reduce swelling, slow bleeding, and provide pain relief. If your dog’s injuries are serious enough, then they will take time to heal, and the pain may be lasting. In that case, your vet may prescribe painkillers. You will have to administer these in whatever way they are meant to be administered. It may come in the form of a flavored syrup that you administer orally. It may come in the form of pills that have to be ground up into your dog’s food.
Can My Dog Get Rabies From a Possum?
Easily the biggest worry of dog owners whose animals may be getting into fights with wild creatures is rabies. While there is a good reason for this, the fact is that the odds your dog will catch rabies from a possum are quite low. Possums are very reclusive and timid. They are good at hiding and only interact with creatures of other species with extreme reluctance. That reduces their chances of catching and spreading the disease greatly.
But people worry about it for understandable reasons. If your dog catches rabies, he will need treatment immediately. If your dog develops a full-blown case of the disease, then you may have the unenviable task of putting him down. Also, possums can be extremely fast and maneuverable in a pinch, and their teeth are quite nasty. So a possum with full blow rabies is a frightening thought indeed.
All these real, but unlikely, possibilities lead people to fear the disease. As highly emotional and visually oriented creatures ourselves, the idea of a rabid animal sticks out in our minds like a scene from a zombie horror film. However, you can take some comfort in the knowledge that rabid possums are rare.
In any event, if your dog kills a possum – or any wild animal – and eats it, you should check him for injuries and take him to the vet for booster shots. This is the safest route to take.
Treating Serious Possum Bites
The most dangerous places a dog can be bitten by a possum are the neck, eyes, genitals, and stomach. Possum teeth are sharp and they have a lot of them. That means any bites may bleed badly. Also, a deep bite that does not bleed profusely and evades detection, may become infected by the possum’s germ-ridden teeth and mouth.
More often than not, if your dog has fought with and killed a possum, he will have bites around the face, paws, and neck. Check the eyes and neck first. If you find injuries to the neck, you may not be able to stop the bleeding without applying too much pressure to the neck. The same may be true of the eyes. In both cases, try to keep the wound moist. You may use gentle flushing water to clean it. The eyes should be kept wet if injured. In either case, an immediate visit to your vet is in order.
If your dog has wounds to the belly that are deeper than a scratch, he may need medical attention. Wrap him in a blanket, and get him to an emergency pet care center. If his internal organs are emerging through the wound, use a clean, warm, and wet towel to hold them in as you transport him to an emergency animal care center. Begin by holding his organs in gently. Then get another towel to wrap around his body to hold the first warm, wet towel in place during transport.
The Vast Majority of Dog/Possum Fights are Nowhere Near this Serious
Before concluding, it’s worth saying that it is rare that fights between dogs and possums are going to be this serious. Rarer still, is the incidence of dogs becoming rabid from an encounter with a possum. There are animals that are much more dangerous than a possum which your dog may get into a tangle with.
After your dog has been in a fight of any kind, approach him with caution. His adrenalized and aggressive state may cause him to bite you. Check his eyes and demeanor first. Then take a closer look for wounds. Determine whether he is in shock. Persistent trembling and confusion may indicate shock.
Finally, use preventative measures like vaccinations and take measures to deter unwanted animals from entering your yard.