My Dog Killed a Possum! Do These Things Immediately!!!

Last Updated on May, 2024

Ever had your dog tangle with a possum? 

It happens, and when it does, you’ll want to be prepared. 

In this article, we’ll break down the steps to take when your dog crosses paths with a possum – from keeping your furry friend safe and cleaning them up, to handling the possum and understanding the risks. We’ll even dive into why dogs have a knack for possum encounters and how to prevent them. 

So, if you’re in the midst of a canine-possum showdown or just curious about the scenario, read on for the lowdown on what to do when your dog gets opossum-obsessed.

Quick Summary

Steps to take when your dog encounters a possum, including examining for injuries and properly disposing of the possum’s body.

Diseases that dogs can contract from possums, such as Chagas Disease and Toxoplasmosis, and the importance of keeping vaccinations up-to-date.

Reasons why dogs may kill possums, including natural instincts and boredom, and how to prevent this behavior through training and proper supervision.

What to Do When Your Dog Kills a Possum?

Two pictures of a dead possum and a dog
  • The first and most important thing you should do when your dog kills a possum is to take your dog away from the possum to avoid further attacks and ingesting the dead animal. 
  • Then, examine your dog thoroughly to find any scratches, wounds, or bleeding. Possums attack vital places like the stomach, genitals, eyes, neck, and chest.
  • Wash the dog with warm water and hydrogen peroxide or unscented soap. Use an antibiotic ointment for minor scratches, and if there are deep wounds and cuts, take your dog to the veterinarian immediately. 
  • Ensure you wash the dog well, even if there are no wounds and scratches, as the dog’s coat might contain parasites, saliva, and urine from the possum that transmit various diseases. 
  • You must also deal with the dead possum if your dog killed a possum. Make sure to remove the carcass by wrapping it using a plastic bag and place it in an outdoor trash can. Or else, you can contact the local animal control to take care of the body. 
  • Confirm whether the possum is dead, as they play dead sometimes. If you are not sure, contact local animal control. Make sure you keep an eye on the possum in case it escapes. Besides, try to trap it without touching it until the animal control arrives.
  • Consequently, monitor your dog well because the dog is likely to contract a bacterial infection. 

How Do Possums Respond to Threats or Perceived Danger? 

Possums are usually docile animals and non-aggressive.

They try to avoid confrontations, but if cornered or feel threatened, they hiss and use their sharp teeth and claws when under a dog attack.

Unlike a baby possum, most adult possums can survive a dog attack.

The most interesting fact about possums is they have a defense mechanism called ‘playing possum,’ as in, they play dead when there is a danger.

They can carry on this act for up to four hours until the dog loses interest in attacking them. 

A black Dog and Possum in snow

How Does a Possum Bite Look on a Dog’s Body?

Possums have six incisor teeth: two on the lower jaw and four on the upper jaw. If your dog attacked a possum, a noticeable bite mark can be visible, as possums have sharp teeth that are 4.5-7mm wide. Yet, finding bite marks on the canines with thick coats is impossible. This is why meeting your vet is crucial. 

Symptoms of a Severe Possum Attack on Dogs

Two Dogs observing a possum
  • The main symptom of a severe attack on a dog is noticeable physical wounds. These wounds can range from scratches to punctures based on the severity of the attack.
  • The next important symptom is swelling. You ought to monitor your dog closely for infections. The signs of infections include Fever, Vomiting, and Diarrhea.
  • If the dog is distressed, it becomes lethargic and shows no interest in food. At the same time, you can notice changes in the behavior, such as anger and confusion, if the dog is stressed.
  • Make sure you meet the vet for some pain relief medication if your dog seems to be in pain. The pain signs include Limping. Being quietDislike to be touched,Whimpering and Groaning

What are the Diseases Dogs Get from Possums?

When your dog goes through a possum attack, disease transmission is possible. Possums carry diseases; your dog will likely contract them if a possum bites him or if the dog ingests dead animals. Keep on reading to find out the conditions your dog gets from possums. 

Chagas Disease

This disease is caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi, a one-celled parasite.

The symptoms include:

  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite

In severe conditions, dogs show symptoms like:

  • Fainting
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacterial condition. This is fatal to dogs since it damages the dog’s vital organs. At the same time, Lepto is zoonotic, which means it can pass from dogs to humans. So, pet owners should be careful of this condition as well.

The symptoms of this condition include:

  • Jaundice
  • Muscle pain
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Painful inflammation in the eye area
  • Shivering
  • Fever

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is caused by roundworms. You can identify this condition through cysts on the muscles.

The symptoms are:

  • Bloody and mucousy diarrhea
  • Anal swelling
  • Rectal prolapse

Tuberculosis (TB)

The possibility of a dog getting TB from a possum is extremely rare, but there is a slight chance.

Tuberculosis symptoms involve:

  • Labored coughing
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Less appetite

Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection caused by a parasite called coccidia.

The symptoms of coccidiosis are:

  • Watery diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal stress

Murine Typhus

The fleas cause Murine Typhus on possums, and there is a chance of dogs contracting it.

The symptoms of this disease include:

  • Fever chills
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Shakes
  • Lethargy

Tularemia

Tularemia disease is a bacterial infection.

The symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Skin ulcers

EPM

EPM is a parasitic neurological disease caused by ingesting possums’ fecal matter. The 

symptoms of this disease involve:

  • Severe myositis
  • Weakness
  • Hind limb paresis
  • Fever
  • Aggression

Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is also a zoonotic parasitic infection, like other diseases.

The symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Eye inflammation

Keeping your dog’s vaccinations up-to-date is crucial to minimize the risks of contracting these diseases. 

Do Dogs Get Rabies From Possums?

The main concern of a dog owner when a dog kills a possum is rabies!

The chance of a dog contracting rabies is more or less slight. Most of the time, possums do not carry rabies.

The reason is possums have a very low body temperature of 94 to 97 degrees, unlike other mammals.

Hence, the rabies virus cannot survive and thrive in such a low body temperature.

A black and tan dog laying on a blanket with possums

If you suspect your dog killed a possum with rabies, take a trip to the vet immediately. Also, examine closely for rabies symptoms like changes in average body temperature, drooling, aggression, and abnormal behavior.

At the same time, if your dog has had the rabies vaccine, there is a very slight possibility for it to contract rabies. So make sure your dogs get the rabies booster shots on time. 

How to Ensure the Safety of a Pet Owner? 

The safety of pet owners is crucial when a dog kills a possum. Possums are wild animals that carry parasites and diseases. Make sure you wear gloves when you check your pooch. Contact Wild Animal Control if you are unsure whether the possum is dead or playing possum. 

Wear Gloves and a face mask when you dispose of the body, and clean possum poop to avoid contacting your skin.

Tips to Get Possum Smell Out of Your Dog

A dog and an opossum playing in the grass

Possums have a strong smell as they are wild creatures and linger in the trees. More than washing your dog is required to get rid of this smell. Below are some small tips to get the smell off of your dog. 

  • You will need ¼ cup of baking soda, 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide, and two teaspoons of dishwashing detergent. Mix the ingredients and apply generously on the dog’s coat, avoiding the eye area. Leave it for around five minutes and rinse it with warm water and mild shampoo. 
  • At the same time, you can use a mixture of water and vinegar to wash your pup.

Why Do Dogs Kill Possums? 

I understand how frustrated and guilty you feel when your dog kills other wildlife, especially 

possums. It is paramount to understand the reasons when dealing with a dog killing a possum. Keep on reading to find out why a dog would kill possums!

  • Natural Instinct

Many dogs inherit natural predatory instincts as they come from wolf ancestors. This is more common in certain breeds, like Afghan hounds. Their hunting instincts compel them to hunt small animals, including possums, as their prey drive is high. 

  • Curiosity

Dogs easily get distracted by the movements of small animals as their innate prey drive is high. They are naturally curious and tend to chase wild animals. 

  • Protection and territory

As mentioned earlier, dogs are protective over territory as a dog’s prey drive is high. They see possums as a threat because of their territorial dominance. The dog develops a strong desire to chase and kill local wildlife. 

  • Boredom

Believe it or not, dogs do kill out of boredom! If your dog lacks stimulation, exercise, entertainment, and interaction, it kills more animals. Your dog will stop this behavior if he is treated properly. 

How to Stop Dogs From Killing Possums? 

Two pictures of a dog playing with a Possum
  • Give your dog proper training to stop chasing and killing possums. You can train commands like ‘leave it, drop it, and stay.’ At the same time, you can reward your dog for positive behavior. 
  • Possums are nocturnal animals, but they loiter around garbage bins to find food during the day. You can avoid keeping outdoor trash cans so that possums have no reason to enter your yard.
  • Besides, you can stop your dog from killing possums through proper supervision, secure fencing, and deterrents. 

Other guides and tools you might need when training your dog:

FAQs

Yes, you should be worried. Possums can carry parasites and diseases.

Yes they do, when cornered and under attack, possums use their claws and sharp teeth to attack dogs.

Take your dog to the vet if they have ingested a possum, especially if they show symptoms such as vomiting, upset stomach, or diarrhea. This is important because the possum may have been poisoned beforehand.

Terriers and hounds are more prone to getting into fights with possums due to their nature of being more aggressive and territorial.

Consult a vet, monitor for illness, prevent future access to possum feces.

Conclusion 

I am sure I will not panic the next time I see my dog trying to attack a possum. I know exactly what I should do.

The next time you have to deal with a dog killing possums, be sure you take these tips and precautions into consideration! 

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Laura Vinzy
Laura Vinzy is one of our contributors. She is also a certified professional dog trainer & currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and her two rescue dogs.

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