Are Possums Dangerous to Dogs?

  • Author: Carl
  • Time to read: 5 min.
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If you have pets, you already know how important it is to keep them safe from certain things, and this includes other animals.

If you live out in the country and have animals such as possums frequently visiting your yard, you might be wondering how dangerous these animals are to your dogs and cats.

After all, nothing is more important than protecting your furry family members from harm, so learning a little more about possums and other animals is a good thing to do.

The thing is that even though possums can certainly hurt a dog, this will never happen in most cases. Why? Because by nature, possums are docile creatures who normally don’t attack unless they feel threatened or they’re being provoked. Most of the time, a possum will simply ignore a dog that is nearby, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be on the lookout for other dangers when your dog meets up with a possum in your yard.

What Is a Possum?

The opossum, or possum as most people know it as, is a marsupial with about 120 different species, mostly found in the Western Hemisphere.

Possums eat bird seed at night
Possum

They have very sharp claws for climbing trees and very large, sharp teeth that they tend to use in self-defense whenever they feel threatened.

More often than not, if your dog comes near a possum, it will either be afraid of the dog and run or simply ignore it. We’ve all heard about possums “playing dead” when they feel threatened, so they may do this as well.

This being said, if you’ve ever wondered, are possums dangerous to dogs, you have to know that there are other things that can be detrimental to your pets if they come across a possum at any point.

For instance, even if the possum isn’t ready to attack your dog and basically leaves it alone, the possum can still carry insects such as ticks and diseases such as:

For this reason alone, it’s best to make sure that your dog and the possums in your yard don’t have a lot of chances to meet.

Possums also have defense mechanisms that they use when they wish to get rid of nearby animals and humans.

One of these is a terrible smell that they can emit from their anus, which is much like the smell of decaying flesh.


Defense Mechanism: The smell alone is enough to ward off most predators, including dogs, so when the possum feels threatened, they may do this instead of attacking with their claws or teeth. Nevertheless, a possum may still attack with teeth and claws, and it’s good to keep that in mind when you have a dog.


How Concerned Should You Be?

Possum at night
Possum

When it comes to how harmful possums can be towards dogs and other pets, it is wise to remember a few very important things:

  • First, the chances of a possum harming your dog are very slim since they usually leave dogs alone or run away from them because they’re scared. This being said, even if they do not attack your dog, they can still spread certain diseases to your pet even if the dog isn’t doing anything to the possum.
  • You should also keep in mind that, though slim, there is still a chance that a possum will indeed attack your dog because it feels threatened. And when they do attack, they do so with their teeth and claws and therefore, it can be quite painful for the dog.

If you keep your dog outside at night, they run a bigger risk of being attacked by possums because possums can spend nighttime eating grubs or plants around bins and lawns, which is often where dogs are found after dark.

And while possums generally prefer to avoid confrontation whenever possible, if your dog comes up to them and starts barking, they might react in self-defense because they’ll feel threatened.

This is especially true if they feel as if the dog or any other animal is going to compete with them for food.

What About Bites?

Occasionally, a possum will bite a dog, or your dog may be inclined to bite the possum.

This can happen since this is often what animals do when they feel they are being threatened.

If your dog bites a possum, the outcome is dependent on the situation itself.

Much of the time, a dog will simply pick up the possum in its mouth and carry it around as if it’s a stuffed animal.

Possum teeth
Possum attack

If this happens, it is not harmful to either animal. In fact, the dog usually gets bored eventually and lets go of the possum at some point.

If your dog does bite a possum and pierces its flesh, you may want to get it checked out by a vet in case the possum has a disease that can be transferred by blood.

Your dog is very unlikely to get rabies simply because rabies is transmitted through saliva and not blood.

In addition, while possums can get rabies, it is very rare because they have great immune systems and very low body temperature, two things that usually have to be in existence for an animal to contract rabies.

If a possum bites your dog, it’ll be easy to tell because they have two incisor teeth at the bottom and four at the top, making a very distinct pattern.


Right Thing To Do: It’s important to clean the wound properly and get the dog checked out by a vet just to be on the safe side. The same goes for scratches, especially if they are bleeding. In most cases, you’ll want to bring the dog to the vet just to make sure that nothing serious is going on that you have to be concerned about.


Conclusion

The chances of your dog being harmed by a possum are very slim, but it can still happen. Because of the even-tempered nature of possums, they usually prefer simply to leave your dog alone.

If this doesn’t happen and you’re concerned about the health of your dog, your vet will be able to tell if you have something to worry about or not.

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