Similar to most animals, squirrels avoid humans, dogs, and cats as much as they can. However, if they feel cornered and threatened with nowhere to turn, they may attempt to bite. If you or your pet get bit by a squirrel then at some point you must have wondered if squirrels carry rabies.
Squirrels rarely carry rabies and there have been no documented cases of squirrels transmitting rabies to humans in the United States. Bites from squirrels are not considered a rabies risk unless the squirrel was acting abnormally and there is an outbreak of rabies in other animals in the local area.
What Is Rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease that can be passed from animals to humans primarily through bites. The most common means of transmission is from dog bites to children. Rabies attacks the nervous system and has a high mortality rate.
If left untreated until after the symptoms appear, the chance of death is high. However, the symptoms may take one to three months to develop,creating an incubation period. The initial symptoms of rabies include fever and burning or tingling at the site of the bite.
As the disease attacks the nervous system, severe symptoms may develop, including confusion, partial paralysis, and hallucinations. After any bite from a wild animal, most doctors recommend testing. While cases of rabies are incredibly rare, squirrels and other warm-blooded animals may possess other diseases.
According to the Center for Disease Control squirrels and other small mammals rarely carry rabies.
Squirrels May Carry Other Diseases
Squirrels may spread tularemia and leptospirosis through their bites.
Tularemia is a bacterial disease that attacks the skin and lymph nodes. The lymph nodes may swell while ulcers may develop at the site of the bite. The symptoms may develop within several days up to two weeks.
Leptospirosis is also a bacterial disease. Those infected with this disease may experience headaches, fever, vomiting, rashes, and jaundice. Leptospirosis may also lead to kidney damage.
In rare cases, squirrels may also spread ringworm. Ringworm is not a worm. It is a fungal infection that primarily affects the skin. A red rash with a ring-like appearance may develop and become irritated. This infection may spread through contact with a squirrel and is less likely to spread as a result of a bite.
What Should You Do After a Squirrel Bite?
While squirrels rarely pass diseases to humans and pets, it is still important to visit the doctors after getting bitten. The biggest risk from a squirrel bite is a skin infection, such as one of the bacterial or fungal infections discussed.
If a human gets bitten, a trip to the hospital is necessary. Doctors can clean and dress the wound, reducing the risk of infection. If the squirrel exhibited strange behavior before biting or was foaming at the mouth, the medical professionals may recommend that you contact the local wildlife agency.
Wildlife agencies track cases of wild animal bites and other incidents. They may even want to collect the squirrel to test the animal for rabies and other diseases.
When a dog or cat gets bitten by a squirrel, you should take your pet to the vet as soon as possible. The vet will clean the wound and check for infections, including rabies infections. After the checkup, you go home with your pet and report back if you notice any changes to your pet’s behavior or health.
The bottom line is that rabies is not a major threat. Squirrels rarely carry the disease and rarely bite humans and pets. However, doctors and vets still recommend that you visit for a checkup and to have the wound treated as a precaution.