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Can Dogs Get Rabies From Rats, Mice, And Rodents?

If you’re a dog owner, then you know that it’s not at all uncommon for your precious companion to chase any small animal it sees.

You may have been concerned about the potential health hazards that could happen if your dog ever caught one of those elusive creatures, especially a rat!

While difficult, every once in a while, your dog will catch a mouse or a rat and eat it.

In these cases, disease transmission is a legitimate concern for dog owners, with rabies being one of the most asked about diseases.

This article will explain whether or not your pets can catch rabies from rodents.

Which Animals Carry Rabies?

It is important to note that rabies is rare in the USA, North America, and Canada.

Rabies is almost non-existent in places such as Australia and the United Kingdom.

However, certain species of rodents can carry the virus.

According to the American Council on Science and Health, the following animals can infect others with rabies:

  • Bats (Principal host)
  • Carnivores that live in the wild (Principal host)

In the United States, it is reported that raccoons are the most rabid animal, followed by bats and then skunks.

Coyotes and foxes can also carry the disease, but it is less common to come into contact with these animals.

Additionally, smaller rodents like hamsters, gerbils, rats, guinea pigs, squirrels, rats, mice, rabbits, hares, and chipmunks have rarely been infected with rabies or transmit the disease to humans (CDC).

Are Dogs at Risk of Getting Rabies from Rodents?

The short answer is that dogs and other domesticated animals do not get rabies from mice or rats, or other rodents.

In the western parts of the world, rodents are seldom caught with rabies.

More importantly, there aren’t any records of transmission to humans.

Can a Dog Contract Rabies from Eating Rats and Rodents?

As it pertains to a dog catching, killing, and eating a rat or rodent, a dog cannot contract rabies by eating rats and rodents.

Due to the method of transmission, by the time the dog finds the rodent, the active agent of the virus would have dried in their saliva and become ineffective.

There is no concrete answer that explains why rodents do not carry rabies or pose a rabies risk.

However, this does not mean that it’s safe for a dog to consume rats; there are still other risks that they can come across.

Why Rats and Rodents Don’t Pose a Threat to Dogs

Scientists have yet to discover why mice, rats, and other rodents don’t carry rabies.

The best theory suggests that rodents are so small they would not live if they got bit by an animal with rabies.

In other words, a rat or mouse would die if they got bitten by an infected animal.

Their chances of surviving such an injury are slim to none, and therefore you will not find a rat carrying rabies because they would have died from the injuries sustained from the bite.

In short, a rodent infecting a dog is virtually an impossibility.

What Diseases Can Dogs Contract from Rats?

Though dogs cannot contract rabies from rats or mice, other diseases can cause sickness.

Here’s a list of some prevalent diseases known to get passed from rodents to pets:

  • Hantavirus
  • Ticks
  • Fleas
  • Monkeypox
  • Leptospirosis
  • Rat Bite Fever
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Salmonella
  • Tularemia
  • Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis

These ailments are why you should keep your dog away from rats and other rodents, as they can become infected.

These illnesses are a result of rodent bites, drinking infected water, consumption of the rodent or their feces, and just being near them.

Dogs tend to chase moving objects, but some breeds are more prone to chasing than others.

It is not uncommon that your dog would hunt rodents.

Due to the risk of rabies, while slight, it is a good idea to teach your dog not to chase rodents.

Rabies: Quick Facts

These facts about the disease will help you better understand how it gets transmitted from the host to another animal or a human.

  • Rabies cannot transmit via unbroken skin. For example, even if a rat had rabies, your dog could touch or lick it, and it still would not contract rabies.
  • Rabies cannot spread through feces or blood. Dogs will not get rabies if they consume the feces of rats or mice because animal waste is not a method of transmission.
  • Rabies is mainly transmitted through saliva alone. Rabies is spread through a bite when saliva gets transferred to the animal that is bit.
  • Rabies can only survive for very little time in the open air. The disease is viable for mere seconds once it is exposed and outside the host vessel. Therefore the likelihood that it is still present on a dead animal corpse is low.
  • The rabies virus survives for up to 48 hours in dead animals. Rabies begins dying quickly as the rodent’s saliva begins to dry up.

According to the U.S. PHS, rabies vaccine shots are not recommended for people who were bit by a rat.

However, if someone gets bitten they, should still go to urgent care.

Final Thoughts

In general, it is unlikely for your dog to contract rabies from rats, mice, and other rodents.

However, other illnesses are carried by these animals.

It’s best to discourage your dog from catching, killing, and eating rodents.

This is accomplished through training your dog or other methods such as purchasing a chew toy that resembles a rodent and satisfies their need to chase small animals.

If you suspect your dog was bitten or has consumed a rodent and you are concerned, contact your primary veterinarian immediately.

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National Canine Research Association of America