Possums, also known as opossums, can be something of an unwelcome visitor in our yards. From afar, these cuties seem pretty harmless, and in most cases, they are harmless. They are generally pretty docile creatures and do not have a tendency to attack first. However, this doesn’t mean that they won’t attack, and it certainly doesn’t mean that your beloved furry friend will not see them as a threat and attack!
This is especially true of those cheeky little possums that come out during the day. Unlike most similar animals, these little guys aren’t just nocturnal (night dwelling). This means that there is a high chance that your dog may come into contact with one, at least one time.
Whilst it is rare that a possum and a dog will try to fight or attack each other, it certainly does happen. We can understand why, as dog owners, the thought of this may terrify you.
Especially since possums are not exactly known for being the cleanest of creatures – they can often have diseases and even rabies! As such, you may freak out entirely if your dog attacks one, or worse still kills one.
Luckily for you, we are here to answer all of the questions you may have about the effect of a possum on your pooch. So, if your dog has killed a possum and you don’t know what to do (or even if they’ve just had a fight), this is the article for you.
Why would a dog kill a possum?
There are a number of different reasons why your dog might have killed a possum. For example, they may have felt under threat by the possum, driving them to attack it out of fear. They may even have killed it to protect you.
Also, if the possum attacked your dog, then it is possible that the dog killed it in retaliation. They may even have viewed the possum as a bit of a game, resulting in them chasing it, pouncing on it, and then accidentally killing it, much like a cat may do to a mouse or bird.
It is no secret that some dogs are just more inclined to kill animals like possums (we will explore this in more detail in the next section, looking at the breeds that are more inclined to kill). The reality of it is that dogs all descend from wolves. This means that they have an instinctual desire to kill, and are naturally predatory.
Wolves had no choice but to hunt for their food – dog food and kibble were not available back then, and they didn’t have kind-hearted humans to look after them – and so they often hunted smaller animals that were similar in shape and size to possums.
So, even though your dog likely has a bowl full of food, plus access to all the snacks and treats that they could possibly need, it could be that, for a split second, the possum just looked like a great choice for lunch, thus giving your dog the inclination to kill it.
What dogs are more likely to kill a possum?
Some dog breeds are more inclined to kill than others. These are the breeds that have the strongest prey drives and include some types of terriers, herding dogs, hounds, and dogs in the sporting group breed.
Now, we want to reassure you that you do not need to worry if you have a dog from any of these categories. They are not vicious murderers. Not by any means. However, it is true that they have a stronger prey drive than other dogs. The reason for this is because of the way they were bred and have evolved.
Historically, these dogs were bred for a purpose and used as working dogs on farms, for hunting, and for protection. As such, even if you get your dog as a puppy and never train them to be predatory, they still have that instinct.
Some specific breeds that may be more inclined to kill a possum include:
- Airedale terriers
- Bull terriers
- Bull Mastiffs
- Siberian Huskies
- Afghan Hounds
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Australian Cattle Dogs
- …and many more
Again, to reassure you, all of the dogs on the list above are wonderful, loving, and loyal. There is no need to fear them. However, because of their breed and natural instincts, they may be more inclined to kill a possum than other dogs’ breeds. That being said, this doesn’t mean that other breeds of dog will not kill a possum! It can definitely still happen, whatever the breed!
Can dogs get a disease from a possum?
Yes. Whilst it is rare, it is certainly possible for your dog to get a disease (or a number of diseases) from a possum. Possums can carry various different diseases, many of which can prove fatal to dogs.
Some of these include (but are not limited to) trichomoniasis, tuberculosis, Chagas, coccidiosis, and leptospirosis. They could also catch Murine typhus which can be transmitted from possum fleas if your dog happens to catch them.
These diseases can be transmitted if your dog is near a possum if it attacks a possum, if a possum attacks your dog, and even if it has been around possum urine or poop.
These diseases can live in any waste left behind by a possum, and may also live on a dead possum for a period of time. With this in mind, you should ensure that any dead possums in your yard or possum poop and urine are removed completely before letting your dog loose in the yard.
That being said, as scary as all these diseases seem, we want to reassure you that your dog is likely already protected against all of these scary illnesses. The reason for this is because the annual injections a dog has at the vets protect against the majority of these.
This is why it is so important that you keep up with these injections and shots, to ensure your dog is always fully protected. However, if you are still worried and unsure, you should talk to your veterinarian to ensure that the shot your dog has is going to protect them against everything, especially if you have a possum problem (if possums visit your yard regularly).
Can possums give dogs rabies?
Rabies is a common fear that dog owners have, especially since many animals are carriers of rabies. That being said, the risk of your dog catching rabies from a possum is extremely rare.
The reason for this is because the body temperature of a possum is typically too low for the rabies virus to survive. Of course, the risk is still there but it is slim. Luckily, the annual vaccinations that your dog needs to have will protect them from rabies, so even if they do come into contact with a possum with rabies, they will likely be fine.
Of course, if you are still worried, you can simply take them to the vet for a check-up and booster.
What should I do if my dog kills a possum?
If your dog has attacked and possibly killed a possum, it can send alarm bells ringing immediately. Your next steps are vital in protecting your dog, your family, your other pets, and yourself.
First, you need to get away from the possum. It may not actually be dead, and you do not want to run the risk of being attacked by an angry, injured possum. Get your dog, family, and any other pets inside the house.
Next, you should check your dog for any signs of injury such as bites and scratch marks. You should not attempt to clean these wounds yourself. Instead, keep your furry friend calm and call the vets immediately. The vet will likely inspect the wounds and clean them thoroughly.
They should also administer antibiotics just to prevent any infection and disease. You should also check that your dog is up to date on vaccinations and whether they may need a booster.
If the possum is injured and cannot move, you should call pest control or ask your local authorities for advice. Do not attempt to move it yourself in case it bites or scratches you. You will not have the same vaccinations as your dog and therefore should not risk getting rabies or another disease.
Likewise, if the possum has indeed died, you may want to dispose of it yourself. However, we would advise seeking advice about this first, either from pest control or the relevant local authority service. They may send someone to deal with it or instruct you how to properly dispose of it.
Will a possum kill my dog?
It is very unlikely that a possum will kill a dog outright, purely through attacking it. The reason for this is that possums are generally very docile and calm animals, and will likely want to stay well away from your dog. This means that you should not worry about a gang of possums coming to your yard and attacking your dog (at least not without being prompted).
However, if your dog and a possum got into a fight or your dog attacked a possum (this does happen, especially with animals with a strong kill drive), then it is very possible that a possum will attack your dog in retaliation.
As such, a possum could, in theory, wound your dog enough to be lethal. This may be especially true in smaller dogs if they happened to lose a lot of blood. That being said, these instances are extremely unlikely.
However, we must make note of the fact that a possum could kill a dog by other means. What we mean by this is that injuries, diseases, and illnesses sustained from a possum have the ability to kill your dog.
For example, if your dog was unvaccinated and got bit by a possum, then it is possible that any diseases a possum had could be transmitted to the dog, proving lethal. As well as this, there is always the possibility of a possum bite becoming infected, and your dog dying because of that.