We have a Wheaten Terrier in our family named Millie and she is the most determined animal that I have ever seen. Millie is determined that no teenagers will leave our house, no delivery man will enter our house and that our Golden Retriever shall NOT chase the laser pointer.
And she is not kidding around.
The thing that Millie is most determined about is that she will kill all of the squirrels in our yard. She hasn’t caught one yet but she has a plan. If you have a dog like Millie with a strong prey drive then you might be wondering, “Will my dog get sick if it kills a squirrel?” Let’s take a look and find out!
The odds of your dog getting sick from killing a squirrel are extremely low. If the squirrel bites your dog during the fight the only danger is from routine infections as squirrels do not carry rabies. Squirrels will often carry ticks which may transfer Lyme disease to your dog but you should already be treating your dog for ticks with preventative treatments.
However, just because your dog probably wont get sick from killing a squirrel that doesn’t mean that interactions between the two species is completely harmless to the dog. Let’s look at a few ways that squirrels can cause some issues with your pup.
A Pack of Squirrels Killed a Dog!
In 2005 the BBC reported on a squirrel attack that supposedly happened in a Russian park. According to the story a large stray dog went into a park and started barking at the squirrels. The squirrels descended from the trees and, working as a pack, attacked and killed the dog.
The dog was gutted by the animals and the ferocious squirrels ran away with chunks of dog flesh.
Of course, this was a story out of Russia with no footage to support it and a local scientist called the report “absurd”.
I have never seen any other reports of squirrels attacking a dog but thought I would throw this in here just to freak a few people out 😉
All kidding aside though, squirrels are TOUGH and they will put up a fight when attacked. If you dog is “successful” in catching a squirrel then make sure you look it over for bites and scratches and get them cleaned up with hydrogen peroxide to prevent infection.
What About Squirrel Diseases?
Fortunately when it comes to diseases that squirrels can transfer to dogs there simply are not many. Squirrels do not carry rabies but, in some parts of the United States, do carry leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a spiral bacteria that attacks internal organs, specifically the liver and kidneys.
Squirrels transmit the leptospirosis bacteria through their urine which may or may not be released when you dog attacks it.
A dog infected with leptospirosis will present with high fever, vomiting and convulsions. Treatment by a vet will be required and will consist of aggressive antibiotics and administration of fluids.
Again, this will be an extremely rare event and is something that you probably should not worry about.
Do Squirrels Have Fleas and Ticks?
Surprisingly, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, squirrels do not carry fleas.
On the flip side, grey squirrels are known to carry ticks that are common in the spread of Lyme disease. Dogs are susceptible to Lyme disease and present with symptoms of fever, loss of appetite, lameness and joint pain. Lyme disease, once detected and properly diagnosed, can be treated with antibiotics over the course of 30 days.
Even though squirrels can carry Lyme diseased ridden ticks your dog is much more likely to encounter these same ticks when it is running through tall grass and playing outside in general.
You really don’t need to worry about your dog catching Lyme disease from squirrel ticks though because you already have your dog on a preventative tick treatment. Right?
Why Do Dogs Want To Chase Squirrels?
Dogs chase squirrels because…..SQUIRREL!!!!!!
Some breeds of dogs, especially terriers like our Millie, were bred for their ability to catch and kill rodents.
It wasn’t that long ago that having a dog that would kill all of the rats on a farm was a prized possession. Rats would eat grain stores and contaminate them with their poop and urine. Rats would bite small animals and even kill baby chicks. Having a dog that aggressively killed rats was a real asset.
Squirrels are rodents like rats and dogs don’t care about the subtle differences.
It would probably confuse Millie if she learned that I make my living building and selling squirrel feeders. That’s okay…I won’t tell her if you don’t!
Stay Away From Dead Squirrels
The only time I would really worry about my dog getting sick from a squirrel was if they found one that was already dead and ate it.
A dead squirrel that has been rotting for a few days could be infested with a whole new selection of parasites or even be a lovely source of food poisoning. Expect some nasty smells and a lot of diarrhea.
The bigger concern would be if the squirrel had died because it had been poisoned by one of my neighbors. It is illegal to poison squirrels but some people still do it as a measure of last resort. Squirrels can invade attics to make nests to raise babies and cause a lot of property damage in the process.
You should try trapping and excluding to keep squirrels out of attics but those methods do not work sometimes and people resort to poison.
If your dog eats a dead squirrel that was killed with poison then your dog will also ingest some of the poison. It is unlikely that your dog would ingest a lethal dose from eating part of a dead squirrel but it still may be enough to make them very sick.
If you find that your dog has eaten a dead squirrel then it would be a good idea to have a few discreet conversations with your neighbors to find out if any of them have recently used poison to get the squirrels out of their attics.