Despite their reputation for playing dead, possums can also appear very dangerous and threatening. When threatened or confronted, they sometimes stand firm and tall and flash their teeth. With their 50 sharp teeth, it can be enough to frighten people and pets alike.
So when your dog encounters a possum, is there any risk that they will be dangerous or present risk to your pup?
Possums are usually docile creatures who avoid conflict and, as such, aren’t an immediate danger to dogs. However, when threatened, they might still attempt to scratch or bite your dog. This can inflict some serious harm to your dog, given how sharp their claws and teeth are.
The truth of the matter is, however, that the majority of opossums live in peace. Baring their teeth and making themselves look larger is usually mostly for show and to keep away any potential threats.
You can poke the opossum with a stick or even put your hand near its mouth when it does this, and it will usually do nothing! In fact, the most common way a possum reacts to danger is to pass out or “play dead” as it is known.
Still, there is a chance that an interested dog might get a bit too close to a possum, and this could lead to the possum having to defend itself, so it may lash out.
In this case, a possum may be just as dangerous to a dog as any other wild animal. With that in mind here’s all you should know about possums and how to protect yourselves and your pets from these animals.
Are Possums Afraid Of Dogs?
Possums are usually passive beings, and so they will usually ignore a dog until they feel threatened by it. Dogs, though, are intuitive and curious animals, so if they see a possum they may want to take a sniff. This is when possums get scared and is what makes them defensive.
Can A Possum Hurt A Small Dog?
If a possum begins to fight, there is a higher chance of a smaller dog being injured. Possums are also more likely to be scared of bigger dogs than smaller ones. They may see smaller dogs as less of a threat and so may feel more comfortable with attacking them rather than playing dead.
Can A Baby Possum Hurt Your Dog?
No, baby possums are far too small and weak to cause any harm to a dog of any size. However, it is the mother you will have to worry about. A mother possum will defend her babies with her life, and so this possum is far more likely to cause injury to your dog than a childless one.
What Happens If A Possum Injures A Dog?
A possum’s main line of defense when being attacked is to play dead. However, if a dog corners a possum who is not playing dead, then it is completely normal for the possum to want to defend itself by acting violently. In a fight, a possum will be able to seriously injure your dog through scratching and biting, and this can lead to many issues or illnesses for your dog.
Here is what a possum bite could lead to:
It’s only natural to question if an opossum bite will give your dog rabies after decades of being told about the rabies danger linked with wild animal bites.
The good news is that an opossum bite poses a low risk of rabies for your dog. But just to be sure that there is no danger, your dog needs to be rabies-vaccinated. The rabies vaccine protects your dog from contracting the disease and is required by law in many parts of the country.
Another good thing is that opossums are largely resistant to rabies and almost never spread the disease, according to the Humane Society of the United States and the Missouri and Illinois Bi-State Wildlife Hotline.
The odds of a healthy, vaccinated dog getting rabies from a possum bite is almost zero, but for unvaccinated dogs, the chances are a bit higher, even though very few possums actually carry rabies.
This is the real threat you should be concerned about if your dog gets injured by a possum. An uncleaned and untreated bite wound can contain a lot of dirt and bacteria, which can make your dog very sick. If your dog has been injured in this way and is showing symptoms like having a fever, vomiting, and diarrhea, take them to a vet as soon as possible for treatment
Even if your dog is not injured by a possum, if they got too close there is a chance that the possum could’ve passed on a tick to your dog. Ticks are invasive parasites that can cause a lot of pain to your dog and even make them very sick in some cases by carrying diseases such as Lyme.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Attacked By A Possum
If your dog is bitten or scratched by a possum or another wild animal, then you should act quickly to avoid your pet becoming sick.
The first thing you have to do is check the severity of the wound. If it is bleeding a lot then your dog may need medical attention immediately, as they may need stitches to close the wound. Take them to the vet straight away if this is the case.
If it is a smaller scratch with no bleeding, then you should clean the wound with water. You may think this is unnecessary as dogs usually do a pretty good job of cleaning their own wounds, but this will help in removing any dirt or bacteria from the area to avoid infection.
Even if the wound is only small, you should still take your dog to the vet as soon as possible for a check-up. The vet will be able to treat the wounds and prescribe any antibiotics or painkillers if needed to help your dog along with their recovery.
How Can I Tell If A Possum Has Bitten My Dog?
Usually, possum bite marks are easy to identify as they have six incisor teeth, two at the bottom and four at the top. A possum bite is likely to emphasize the bottom two incisors, so you should see two wide, medium depth punctures, with a small gap in between with obvious bruising above from the top four incisors.
Is Possum Poop Toxic to Dogs?
Possum poop as well as urine are toxic and can harm people a lot if they are contaminated. Possum feces are also harmful to dogs as well. Leptospirosis is a disease that can be spread through possum poop. This disease affects cats as well, and can even be transferred to humans. There have been several outbreaks of Leptospirosis in recent years.
Fortunately, there is a vaccine for Leptospirosis that can be administered to your dog. Ask your vet if they feel your dog is in a high-risk environment for Lepto and whether they recommend vaccination.
Why Do Possums Play Dead?
It’s very unlikely that a possum will attack your dog in the first place, because their main instinct is to play dead when they are in danger.
This is a clever technique that possums use to persuade their opponents into thinking that they had “won” the battle, causing the threat to then leave them alone.
According to some studies, the opossum has no control over this paralyzed state, which is caused by a chemical reaction in the brain that temporarily paralyzes them for a few minutes to a few hours.
This means that the opossum has a natural inbuilt instinct to play dead when confronted by larger animals, particularly people. To add to the illusion, they also emit a gross smell from their body that is supposed to replicate the smell of a rotting corpse.