Have you seen possums in your area and worry that one may hurt your dog?
Wondering whether a possum can hurt a dog is a common question because most possums are the size of a small dog, possess sharp teeth, and sometimes carry diseases.
The short answer is that possums can be dangerous to your dog if confronted.
If a possum gets put into a situation where it must fight back, then your dog might return home bleeding from scratches.
The good news is that possums don’t unnecessarily seek out confrontation.
They’re rather docile creatures and would rather avoid interacting with dogs or even humans.
There’s typically no danger in terms of a possum or your dog turning into major threats to one another.
However, some danger still exists and you should be aware of the risks.
Let’s dive deeper into the issue.
Will a Possum Aggressively Attack Your Dog?
The likelihood that a possum would attack your dog without reason is low.
A possum will more likely roll over and “play dead” than viciously go after a pet.
On the other hand, if your dog gets excited to see a possum and gives chase, then the possum may have no choice other than to fight back.
Possums fight back when feeling as though their life is in danger.
That’s when your dog might get caught up in a scuffle and become hurt.
The most common way for a possum to respond to your dog’s chase, however, is to fall to the ground and make it appear to the dog that it has died.
The term “playing possum” comes from this behavior.
Possums fall on their sides, extend their tongues and make their attacker believe they’ve died.
They’ll often keep their eyes open and stare into space as any dead animal would do.
They can remain in this state for up to four hours trying to convince a dog or any other animal that there’s no reason to continue an attack.
This “play dead” behavior is a possum’s biological response to danger.
It often happens without conscious intent as this survival mechanism kicks into high gear during stressful situations.
Keep in mind that this activity sometimes backfires on possums.
For instance, if it happens on a busy road, then a possum might get killed by the next driver who doesn’t know that it’s still alive.
Don’t assume that a possum in your yard is dead and go near it.
Instead, remove yourself and your dog from the area and allow the possum to revive itself and scurry away.
Does Owning a Dog Mean Possums Stay Away?
Possums, like any animal, don’t unnecessarily put themselves in harm’s way if they can avoid it.
If a nearby possum understands that a dog paroles your yard, then it’s likely the possum will find safer properties to hunt for food in.
Possums are scavengers.
They look for easy paths to food sources. They like to eat grass, fruit, and nuts.
They’ll also dive into your garbage if you leave trash cans exposed or easy to get into.
Your dog can’t always stay outside as a possum-deterrent.
For this reason, keep any food or garbage covered on your property.
This makes it less likely that a possum will enter the yard and become a cause for confrontation with your dog.
Can a Possum Bite Cause Illness?
A possum can transfer diseases to your dog.
For example, a disease called Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) can get transferred from possums to household pets.
It’s more commonly transferred to horses, however.
This is why the name of the disease includes the term “equine”.
A dog infected with EPM would show symptoms affecting its central nervous system.
However, EMP gets spread through a possum’s fecal matter.
It’s unlikely to come into contact with your dog if you take care to prevent possums from getting into your pet’s water and food supply.
A possum can pass rabies to your dog.
Again, it’s highly unlikely to occur because the National Institute of Health reports that rabies exists in less than 3% of all possums.
Leptospirosis is another disease that a possum could potentially pass onto your dog.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that gets passed via the urine of an infected animal.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that possums are a possible carrier of Leptospirosis.
Your dog could potentially become exposed if it gets near water or soil that’s come into contact with a possum’s urine.
It’s interesting to note that possums help keep neighborhoods free from other pests that carry disease.
This occurs when possums eat the following types of pests:
What Happens If a Possum Doesn’t Play Dead?
It’s possible that a possum doesn’t play dead and involves itself in a physical altercation with your dog.
You should know that your dog can sustain injuries while fighting with a possum.
Possums have teeth and claws that cause damage to any other animal they decide to play rough with.
Your dog might suffer from torn flesh from a claw scratch or bite.
Of course, the damage caused depends on the size and personality of your dog.
Is your dog larger and on the aggressive side?
If so, then it will probably do more harm to the possum, scare it away easily or at least cause it to roll over and act dead.
A smaller or more timid dog might come back from the altercation with more serious injuries to deal with.
What Should You Do If Your Dog Fights a Possum?
If you’re close by, then the first thing you need to do is to separate your dog from the possum as quickly as possible.
Keep in mind that many dogs will become excited or agitated during this time and it might become hard to move your dog away from the possum.
Use your voice to get your dog’s attention.
Clasp a leash on him or her as soon as you can so that you can gain more control over the situation and lead your pet away.
Check for injuries.
Do you see bite marks or scratches on your dog? Is your pet acting hurt in some way?
Pay close attention to anything that signals it’s time to visit the vet for more inspection and care.
Lastly, visit your vet so that wounds get treated properly.
Talk to the doctor about any need for antibiotics.
It’s a good idea to visit the vet even if you don’t see visible injuries to your pet.
You can discuss the possibility of any illness exposure to your dog.
A vet will make sure that your dog doesn’t suffer long-term consequences from the encounter.
Can a possum hurt a dog?
Yes, it can.
However, the odds are more in favor of your dog never suffering any problems from a possum encounter than becoming seriously ill or hurt.
Take the precautions listed above so that possums don’t enter your property.
From there, pay attention to where your dog is at all times.
If you’re careful and use a preventative approach, this is one aspect of life as a pet owner that you can rest easy about.