I took my dogs out camping recently, Not long after we’d set up camp in the evening, the dogs started barking like crazy and ran after a wild Possum only to return covered with bleeding scratches.
A possum certainly has enough power to defend himself, however just how dangerous are possums to dogs?
In this article, we will see if a possum would attack a dog without being provoked and if Possums can cause any real harm to your dog.
Can a Possum hurt a dog?
Possums most certainly can hurt a dog. Possums are equipped with sharp claws designed for climbing trees and a large set of sharp teeth that they can use in self-defence if the possum feels threatened. Teeth and claws are not the only thing to be concerned with, as possums can carry irritating insects such as ticks, and diseases such as tularemia, toxoplasmosis and in rare cases, rabies.
Are possums afraid of dogs
Here’s the good news. Possums are relatively passive beings, so depending on the dog, they will either be afraid, or they won’t be bothered. Possums are famous for their natural instinct to play dead or ‘play possum’ when they feel threatened.
This mechanism temporarily paralyses the possum, rendering it immune to external stimuli and lowers its heart rate so it appears to be very dead. On top of this, they excrete a very strong bad smell from their anus, engineered to replicate the smell of decaying flesh.
This habit is a fantastic defense mechanism because the appearance of death and the terrible smell will generally ward off most predators, including dogs.
If you want to Learn If Possums can be Dangerous to People, Read our guide here: Are Possums Dangerous
Do possums attack dogs? Will they attack a Dog if they see one?
Because of their docile nature we don’t often have to worry about a possum attacking a dog, but there are exceptions. Like any animal, if a possum feels threatened with little alternative – they will most certainly attack a dog in self-defence with sharp claws and teeth.
The best way to think about a possum and its desire to attack is that it is not an aggressive animal and it almost always prefers to avoid confrontation. When a possum sees a dog, they are far more likely to play dead until the dog leaves the area than to openly attack unless it feels there is a competition for food.
Possums generally prefer to eat grubs, plants or dead rodents but they are occasionally found raiding compost bins outside houses so there is a small risk with dogs kept outside at night in close proximity to bins or on a lawn rich in grubs like earthworms.
Are possums dangerous and harmful to dogs
It depends on how you look at it. Based on the explanations I’d been given so far, I would conclude that they are certainly dangerous and potentially harmful, but I would be inclined to say that the danger a possum presents is low risk.
That being said, there are plenty of things to be aware of when the risk becomes reality and the possum chooses to attack. There is also the consideration that even if the possum does not attack a dog, it can still present a harmful situation in the form of disease should the dog harm the possum, even without sustaining injury itself.
Also read: How to Deter Possums from your house
Can a possum hurt a small dog
Small dogs are in more danger of sustaining serious injury through an altercation with a possum than larger dogs; this is simply due to the fact that a possum is usually around the size of a house cat, or smaller.
Possum claws are very capable of tearing a sizeable wound in a small terrier, but the injury would be far less severe on a larger dog. Another thing to bear in mind is that whilst possums are omnivores and that they will eat the flesh of other animals – they prefer to eat grubs, or animals that are already dead.
It is rare for a possum to attack living beings, so even if your small dog is no bigger than a large rodent, there isn’t really an increased risk of attack.
Can a possum hurt a large dog
My dogs are relatively big mongrels – the size of large collies, so I’m not too concerned with a possum attacking and successfully causing serious physical damage to them. Possums are far more likely to be afraid of big dogs too. My dogs are about five times the size of a possum, so chances are, it would be playing dead as soon as it realized what it was up against.
There is still the concern of ticks or disease though, potentially causing a lot of pain in the long term. No matter what the size of your dog it is best to try and keep them away from an interaction with possums, as they are only ever likely to do more harm than good – even if it’s just to upset the dog’s sense of smell!
Can a baby possum hurt your dog
Not directly, but you can be sure that if mommy is around that she will defend her babies with her life. If your dog is determined to attack a baby possum it is likely to sustain injury from a parent.
This being said – possums are marsupial, which means they carry their young around in a pouch for up to six months and on their back for up to eight weeks after that, so it is very unlikely to come across a baby on its own before it is ready to live independently and even if your dog found one, it would be sure to play dead and the dog would likely lose interest very quickly.
Possum Encounters with Dogs
Possums themselves can do very little damage to an average dog,however there is always a risk of a wild possum carrying diseases which can be extremely harmful for your dog. Let’s explore this in more detail.
What happens if a dog bites a possum
It completely depends on the situation. Because of a possum’s tendency to ‘play possum’ upon contact with a dog, the dog is very unlikely to actually bite it. Sometimes dogs will pick up the possum in its mouth and carry it around or play with it like a stuffed toy, but this is usually unharmful to both dog and possum as the dog will eventually get bored and let the possum go.
Should a dog successfully pierce the flesh of a possum then it is certainly worth having the dog checked, just in case it the possum was carrying a disease that is transferable through blood, such as tuberculosis.
Can a dog get rabies from biting a possum
The short answer is no. Rabies is transmitted through saliva – not blood, urine or feces – so if your dog bites a possum, it is safe from rabies. Possums have a great immune system and a very low body temperature which makes them very poor candidates for rabies, however, they can still catch the disease.
What to do if a possum scratches your dog:
- Check the severity of the scratch – is the scratch bleeding?
- Clean the wound with water (Your dog will generally do a very good job of this, but it can be helpful to remove any dirt or debris from the area to avoid infection).
- Take your dog to a vet as soon as possible for a check-up.
My dog attacked and killed a possum, what do I do? Should I be worried?
There’s nothing to be immediately worried about if your dog has not sustained any injury from the possum. Take your dog to get checked at the vet when you can and dispose of the dead possum safely.
If it’s been killed in your yard, then avoid touching the possum and either bury it, or call animal control to dispose of the remains. If you’re in the outdoors you can either bury it or let nature do its thing.
Can possums bite dogs?
Absolutely they can, so it is worth thinking about rabies or other infectious diseases as a possibility if the situation is reversed and your dog sustains a bite from a possum.
How do I tell if a possum has bitten my dog?
Possum bite marks are easy enough to identify as they have six incisor teeth (two at the bottom and four at the top). A possum bite is most likely to emphasize the bottom two incisors so you should see two wide, medium depth punctures with a very small gap in between with obvious bruising above from the top four incisors. Regardless of what has bitten your dog, it’s a good idea to get it checked to be safe.
Do possums eat dog poop
Unfortunately, they do, for some reason they like it, as well as dog food. For this reason, it is very important to clean up after your dog regularly and ensure that if your dog eats outside that there is no dog food left lying around as possums will be unnecessarily attracted to the area.
Are there any possum repellents safe for dogs
There are plenty of chemical pest repellents you can use around the home to prevent possums from getting into your trash or eating your plants but many of these can be harmful to your dog. After removing any attractants such as pet food from your outside area then there are a couple of very effective methods to deter possums.
Firstly, use the left-over pet hair from your dog after brushing and scatter it around at-risk areas such as bins and fruit plants. Possums automatically avoid the area because of the smell of the dog hair which indicates a threat to the possum so they will venture elsewhere.
You can also mix a solution of 2 parts water, 1-part dish soap and 1-part hot sauce in a spray bottle and spray the outside areas. Crushed garlic on your garden also works a treat!
Remember that possums are docile and will very rarely attack your dog, so if you do come across a possum then it’s best to simply avoid contact and let it go on its way.