My Dog Killed a Possum What Should I Do?

by Stuart | Last Updated:   February 1, 2021
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If you live in North America, you probably have seen possums wandering through your yard or neighbourhood park. Possums typically are white-coloured with sharp teeth and a snout that’s pointed, but what’s unique to a possum in their pouch on their belly.

Because they’re nocturnal animals and prefer to sleep in dark, secluded places, they come out at night rummaging for food.

Knowing what exactly you should do if your dog killed a possum is vital for many factors. This article will explain the steps below that you should take when your dog encounters and kills a possum.

what to do if your dog kills a possum

What You Should Do If Your Dog Kills a Possum

The first thing you should do if your dog kills a possum is to have them examined by a veterinarian. Possums can carry diseases that can transmit to mammals and humans through feces and urine. Such diseases are lyssavirus, also known as Rabies, leptospirosis, coccidiosis, and tularemia.

Possums can also be carriers of fleas that may have diseases such as Murine typhus.

Rabies is the most commonly known disease for animals to contract. Because possums’ body temperature is cooler than other warm-blooded animals, rabies is known to be rare in possums.

People often mistake possum’s defense mechanism as a sign of rabies because their signal is open-mouth hissing and drooling. However, this behavior is a bluffing tactic that possums use to scare off potential predators.

  1. Try to get away from the possum as fast as possible. Since possums are typically not aggressive creators, do not scare it aware. Instead, get your dog and yourself away from the possum.
  2. Next is to contact your local animal control facility. Animal control will tell you how to handle the situation safely and where to go to get testing. Bear in mind that you will most likely have to pay for this testing yourself, but the value of your peace of mind cannot be underestimated.
  3. Examine your dog for wounds: If a possum has bitten your dog, be sure to check its fur and skin for injuries thoroughly.
  4. Lastly, call your vet If a possum has bitten your dog. Discuss the options they recommend. Your vet will clean any wounds and prescribe antibiotics. This might include giving them a rabies booster, just in case.

What to Do If Your Pet Encounters a Possum With Rabies

If your pet encounters a possum with rabies, you won’t know until after calling animal control because you can only detect rabies’ positivity after their death. It would be best if you took your dog to the vet immediately so you can treat your canine the appropriate way.

Typically, a dog’s first rabies vaccination is given before they are fourteen weeks old, then boosters are given every year afterward, or every three years, as required by your state.

If your pet is vaccinated, it is most unlikely to get rabies disease. However, to be safe and at ease, you should always check with your vet after the incident.

Your vet will determine if your dog has been in contact with the disease because although rabies is a fragile virus and dies off within ten to twenty minutes while in direct sunlight, it can actually live for up to two hours on an animal’s coat.

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How to Treat Your Pet with Wounds After a Fight With a Possum

When coming into a situation where your dog has killed a possum, it’s important always to call animal control to assist when dealing with the dead possum.

Finding small injuries can be difficult depending on your dog’s coat. If you cannot verify that your dog has no breaks in the skin, then the wisest choice is to take them to your vet for a thorough examination.

Additionally, when examining your pet for cuts, scratches, punctures, and bites on your dog, be sure to wear gloves. Note that any type of gloves that you have readily available will be sufficient.

This could include gardening gloves, medical gloves, and even winter gloves to ensure you don’t contract any rabies infection because rabies is highly infectious to humans.

How to Deal With a Dead Possum

When dealing with a dead possum, you don’t want to have a decaying animal near your home, so the wisest thing is to follow the below steps:

  1. Make sure the possum is genuinely deceased. Possums like to play dead as a defense mechanism. If not, call animal control to help capture and take it away.
  2. If deceased, make sure you’re wearing long sleeves and gloves to prevent any ticks or fleas from transmitting to you, and move the carcass into a thick plastic garbage bag.
  3. Make sure to tie the bag closed, and then double bag it to ensure it is sealed.
  4. If you are waiting to have the carcass removed, consider sealing the garbage in a box to prevent attracting other animals to the scent.

What Happens If Your Pet Isn’t Vaccinated?

The harsh reality is, if pets have been exposed to the rabies virus and never received treatment prior, these pets likely have to be euthanized to protect the people and other animals around them.

Following exposure to rabies, unvaccinated dogs may be euthanized immediately by an animal health professional. There is no approved biologics for postexposure for an unvaccinated animal.

However, if you are unwilling to have your dog euthanized, you will be asked to place your dog in strict quarantine for up to forty-five days because rabies’ symptoms are slow to show. Symptoms can be within one week or even to one year, but the typical timeframe is one to three months.

Additionally, your vet will administer a rabies vaccine at the time of entry into quarantine.

Symptoms Your Pet May Experience

Your pet may experience symptoms if they have encountered a possum with rabies, including excessive drooling, staggering, paralysis, or seizures, but also behavioural changes such as fearfulness or aggression and even uncharacteristic affectionate behaviour.

While it’s not common, disorders such as the hypothalamus, a brain disorder, may cause your dog to avoid water. If this happens, this is a significant red flag, and you should take them to the vet immediately, as this is an outcome that almost always results in death, if not tended to.

The rabies virus transmits through the blood and saliva of an infected animal, so typically, it then transfers in the saliva and is highly infectious from biting and scratching.

As soon as the rabies virus penetrates the body of a dog, it starts replicating in the muscles’ cells and will spread to the nearest nerve. The virus can take up to a month but usually develops in as little as ten days or less. It’s necessary to take all precautions you can with your dog because the virus rapidly progresses once the symptoms appear.

Dog after washing in a washing machine

What’s the Difference Between a Possum And an Opossum?

We know them as opossums, or possums for short, and they are only native to the United States and Canada. The opossums’ name derives from an Algonquian word meaning “white dog” or “white beast.”

However, despite their name, possums are quite submissive creatures and typically never attack other animals unless provoked.

In North America, an opossum is most commonly spelled possum, omitting the o. However, a ‘possum’ is another widely known animal in Australia for its rounded ears. For the sake of this article, when referring to possums, we’re speaking about the North American marsupial.

How To Keep Possums Out of Your Yard

Far from popular opinion, possums can actually be beneficial for your garden. They are known to eat small insects, snails, slugs, and even rodents. Unless you see them attacking your dog, you should not be alarmed. So, if you see a possum in your yard, let it be because eventually, it will just move along.

To best assure that you are keeping possums away is to be sure that all garbage cans are fitted tightly with their lids so that no scent can be attracted to and garbage pulled out. Also, try to keep all pet food inside or pick up any food outside and bring it in when going to bed.

Commonly known areas that possums will get into are decks and patios. If you find that possums keep denning underneath your deck or patio, the best way to keep them away is by filling any holes or gaps that are noticeable to small creatures.

You can use netting, straw, or another fibrous material to close any openings. Using these options for materials will allow any animal that becomes trapped inside to get out using a path, but to outsider animals, they won’t care to disturb the blockage.

If successfully filled in, and you haven’t noticed any disturbance for two to three nights, then it’s safe to assume no animals are in the area anymore, and you can adequately fill in the gap.

Final Thoughts

The most commonly contracted disease for most animals, such as dogs, is rabies. However, rabies is actually pretty rare in possums, so it’s less of a worry when your dog kills a possum.

It’s still a good idea to have your dog examined by a vet. Preventative healthcare is often far cheaper than reactive, especially when it comes to dogs.

So if your dog has killed a possum, hopefully these tips have helped make the situation easier to handle, and make sure you consider taking your dog to the vet.

Happy petting!

Continue Reading:

  1. 6 Reasons Your Dog Nibbles Your Ears
  2. What Happens If A Dog Eats A Cork?
  3. How Long Does It Take For A Dog To Decompose?

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