I have to confess, I love squirrels. They share food with the birds at my house. I’ve even named a few of them. However, I’m also aware that they have a dark side. As adorable as they are, they can also be vicious.
My dogs love to chase squirrels. So far, they’ve never caught one. However, I started to wonder, what if one of them did catch a squirrel? Would the squirrel bite? Would it harm them?
What happens if a squirrel bites a dog?
Chasing squirrels is a daily pasttime for my dogs. It’s not something I gave a lot of thought, until I read about dogs being bitten by squirrels. They are not aggressive animals, but they will defend themselves if they are attacked. This can result in some nasty bites to your pooch.
The biggest concern if your dog is bitten by a squirrel is the wounds themselves. This can leave them vulnerable to diseases carried by squirrels. It also leaves them open to secondary infections, as any break to the skin would be.
An infected wound can be serious, and requires medical attention. It’s usually possible to avoid secondary infection with proper cleansing and treatment of the wounds.
Squirrels are small animals, and they have small mouths. However, they do have strong sharp teeth that they use for cracking acorns. These teeth can cause multiple small bites on your pooch.
If you’ve ever seen a squirrel on the move, you know speed is one of their strong suits. When they are defending themselves, they can get in many small, but painful, bites.
Leptospirosis is a bacteria that infects many types of wildlife, including squirrels. It’s transmitted through urine. If your dog comes into contact with infected urine, they can develop Leptospirosis.
If the squirrel pees on your dog, or your dog is sniffing squirrel pee on the ground, they are at a risk of the disease.
It’s unlikely to be transmitted through a bite. However, it can be transmitted through blood to blood contact. If the squirrel’s blood comes into contact with the bite, your pooch can get the disease.
The symptoms of leptospirosis include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. Increased thirst and changes in urination may also occur. They may also be lethargic or find moving painful.
Severe cases can lead to kidney or liver failure. Bleeding disorders and neurological problems are also possible with severe infection.
Tularemia is a bacterial disease caused by exposure to an infected animal. It is rare, but highly contagious. The most common type is known as Ulceroglandular tularemia. It’s commonly caused by a bite from an infected animal or insect.
It will form a skin ulcer at the site of infection or bite. Other symptoms include swollen or painful lymph glands, fever, fatigue, and headache. It can be fatal if not treated. However, it can be treated with antibiotics.
Ringworm is a fungal infection that usually occurs in the skin. Similar to humans, dogs develop a round raised area. Dogs will experience hair loss in a circle. They may also have skin lesions.
Ringworm is not dangerous, but it is highly contagious. It can be passed on to other pets as well as humans.
Coccidiosis isn’t spread through squirrel bites. Instead, it’s present in their feces. However, your dog can get it if they ingest infected tissue. If they bite the squirrel, or come into contact with their feces, they can contract coccidiosis.
Lyme disease is another concern. Squirrels don’t transmit Lyme disease, even though they can become infected with the bacteria. Instead, it’s transmitted by ticks. If an infected tick is on a squirrel, it’s possible for it to migrate to your dog, infecting them with Lyme.
Of course, simply being in an area where ticks are common is also a risk factor for developing Lyme disease.
Thyphus is caused by a bacteria. It’s not often found in squirrels, with the exception of flying squirrels. Symptoms include rash, fever, and flu like symptoms. It can result in death if not treated. As the disease progresses, photosensitivity, delirium, and coma can occur.
Do Squirrels Carry Rabies?
Rabies is a fear for dog owners, for good reason. It’s heartbreaking, and most dogs who contract rabies don’t survive.
The good news is, squirrels don’t carry rabies. Keeping up to date with vaccinations can also protect your pooch from the deadly disease.
If they frequently interact with wildlife, it’s essential to keep them protected. Squirrels do not carry rabies, but other local wildlife can.
What to do if my dog gets bitten by a squirrel?
Your pooch wanted a squirrel snack, but ended up with squirrel bites instead. You are understandably worried. What do you do if your dog gets bitten by a squirrel?
Clean the Wounds
The first thing you should do when your dog is bitten by a squirrel is to clean the wounds. Begin with soap and water. After you’ve washed the wounds, removing any blood and debris, apply an antiseptic. Iodine is the best option. You can also use antibacterial wash or bactine.
Apply Antibiotic Ointment
You may want to apply antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection in the wounds. Neosporin is the best known human antibiotic ointment for humans. Tripel antibiotic ointment is also popular. Technically, neosporin is simply a brand of triple antibiotic cream.
Some of the antibiotics used in triple antibiotic ointment are not great for dogs. They are unlikely to cause harm in small amounts, but ingesting too much can make your pooch sick.
For this reason, it’s better to choose a different antibiotic cream. Neomycin or bacitracin are both good options for your pooch. Triple antibiotic cream contains both of these, but it also contains polymyxin B, which can be problematic for dogs.
Bandage the Wound
Depending on where the wounds are, and their severity, you may want to bandage or cover them. Some dogs tend to lick their wounds, and this can make them worse over time.
Covering the wound keeps germs out, and keeps your dog from licking the area. You can do this with a simple band aid, or gauze. Compression bandage can be used to hold gauze in place, but be careful not to reduce circulation.
Should You Visit Your Vet?
If you are concerned about your dog’s well being, don’t hesitate to call your vet or schedule an appointment. Most squirrel bites will heal on their own with proper home care. However, follow your intuition, and use common sense.
If your pooch has what is little more than scratches, they should be fine at home. If the squirrel caused a puncture wound, it’s best to visit the vet.
If something doesn’t seem right with your dog, see your vet. If they have a deep laceration or puncture wound, they will need to visit the vet. The wound may require stitches.
Wounds on the face and paws are a bit more problematic than wounds in other areas. Your dog’s face can get up close and personal with some gross stuff, including poop and dead animals.
The paws come into contact with the ground, which can also carry bacteria and dirt. These conditions make it more likely for the wounds to get infected.
When is an Animal Bite an Emergency?
A squirrel bite is highly unlikely to be an emergency situation, but it’s a great idea to know when a bite of any kind is an emergency. If there’s a wound near or on the eye, this is an emergency.
Deep puncture wounds or lacerations, or wounds that don’t stop bleeding within a few minutes are also an emergency.
If the animal who bit your dog appears to be ill, you’ll need to contact your vet immediately. Your pooch may require immediate treatment.
Poisonous bites are always an emergency. This includes venomous snakes and spiders. If you aren’t sure if an animal is poisonous, take your dog to the vet to be safe.
What to Watch For
Once the initial first aid is taken care of, your dog isn’t completely out of the woods. In most cases, they will be fine. However, it is possible for them to catch a disease from the squirrel, or develop an infection in the wounds.
Signs your dog’s wounds may be infected include redness, swelling, and heat in the area. You may also see pus, which can be white, green, or yellow. The wound may bleed easily. Your pooch may also show signs of pain like whining, lethargy, or avoiding using the area.
If your dog’s wound appears infected, call your vet immediately.
You’ll also need to watch for signs your dog has caught a disease from the squirrel. Potential signs of disease include fever, changes in appetite or urination, and fatigue. Gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhea, vomiting, and gas can also be indications of a disease.
Some diseases will show up within a few days of the bite, while others can take from a few days to a few weeks. Keep this in mind when monitoring your dog after a bite.
Lastly, trust your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right with your pooch, call your vet.