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My Dog Ate a Squirrel: Should I Be Worried? Our Vet Explains

Written by: Dr. Sharon Butzke DVM (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on May 22, 2024 by Dogster Team

Squirrel in a tree

My Dog Ate a Squirrel: Should I Be Worried? Our Vet Explains

VET APPROVED

Dr. Sharon Butzke  Photo

WRITTEN BY

Dr. Sharon Butzke

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you have just witnessed your dog eating all or part of a squirrel, your initial reaction could fall anywhere along the spectrum from horror and disgust to, “What’s the harm in that?” Coyotes and wolves probably eat squirrels all the time! While there is some truth to this (so if your dog ate a squirrel you probably don’t need to panic), there are a few things to consider:

  • Although it is rare, squirrels can be infected with rabies
  • A scuffle with a live squirrel might result in your pup being bitten
  • Squirrels commonly carry bacteria and parasites that can make your dog sick
  • Secondary poisoning can occur if the squirrel died from eating a toxic substance like mouse or rat bait
  • If the squirrel is swallowed whole or in large pieces, there may be a risk of gastrointestinal (GI) blockage

We will discuss each of these points in more detail below.

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The 7 Potential Concerns of Eating a Squirrel

1. Rabies

One of your first thoughts might be, “What if the squirrel had rabies?” Fortunately, the risk is considered to be very low. A large study reviewed all cases of rabbits and rodents tested for rabies in the United States between 1995 and 2010 and found that, out of 21,977 squirrels submitted, only nine were positive for rabies(0.04%).1

However, the risk is not zero, so if your dog has eaten a squirrel, contacting your veterinarian is a good idea to ensure their rabies vaccination is up-to-date.

a sick vizsla dog lying on a dog bed at home
Image Credit: Edgar Feliz, Shutterstock

2. Bite Wounds

If there was a skirmish before your dog killed and ate the squirrel, there is a chance that they sustained bite wounds.

We have established that the likelihood of the squirrel having rabies is very low, but puncture wounds can be painful and become infected. Check your pup carefully for wounds and inform your veterinarian of any concerns.


3. Bacterial Diseases

Squirrels commonly carry bacteria that can be transmitted to dogs (and people).

Examples include:
  • Salmonella: May result in food poisoning-like symptoms
  • Leptospirosis: Can lead to kidney or liver failure
  • Tularemia: Usually causes fairly mild disease in dogs but can be life-threatening in people; it is a reportable disease in the United States

An effective vaccine is available to protect dogs from leptospirosis, which your veterinarian may recommend if you live in a high-risk area.


4. Ringworm

Squirrels can have ringworm, which is highly contagious to other animals (including dogs and people). The name is misleading because ringworm is a fungal infection! Signs of this condition in dogs include hair loss and occasionally redness of the skin or scabbing.

It does not tend to be itchy. Some affected dogs may not show any signs at all. If you are concerned that your pup may have ringworm, ask your veterinarian about diagnostic testing and treatment options.

border collie breed old tricolor dog tired or sick at rest attitude
Image Credit: cynoclub, Shutterstock

5. Parasites

Squirrels often carry fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites like roundworms and tapeworms. If your pup has eaten a squirrel, your veterinarian can prescribe medication to clear out any unwelcome bugs they might have picked up.


6. Secondary Rodenticide Poisoning

If your pup found and ate a squirrel that was already dead, the possibility that it died from rodenticide poisoning (i.e., mouse or rat bait) should be considered. If you use rodenticide on your property and suspect the squirrel may have ingested it, contact your veterinarian immediately!

If your dog ate the squirrel very recently, it might be possible to induce vomiting. It is probably a good idea to run some tests to check for proper blood clotting to be safe.

It is important to note that signs of rodenticide toxicity take at least a few days to appear.

Please do not simply assume your dog is okay because they aren’t showing obvious signs of toxicity right away!


7. Gastrointestinal (GI) Obstruction

If you have a small dog or one that tends to swallow things whole without chewing, they may be at risk for a gastrointestinal (GI) blockage. If this occurs, your veterinarian may need to perform surgery to remove the obstruction.

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How Can I Keep My Dog Safe?

Here are some tips to help protect your pup:
  • Supervise them when they are outdoors
  • Practice commands like “leave it” to prevent them from picking up unsafe objects, and teach them to “trade” items you don’t want them to have for a high-value reward
  • Keep up with important vaccinations like rabies and leptospirosis (if it is a risk in your area), as recommended by your veterinarian
  • Regular deworming is a good idea, especially if your pup tends to eat things they find outside
If you suspect your dog may have eaten a squirrel, it is a good idea to call your veterinarian because:
  • They are familiar with the diseases commonly carried by wildlife in your area
  • They can check if your pup’s vaccinations are up-to-date
  • They will prescribe medication to take care of any parasites your pup might have picked up

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Summing Up

Do not forget to keep yourself safe! If you find a dead squirrel (or part of one) on your property, be sure to handle the body safely. Avoid touching it with your bare hands; wear gloves or use a shovel to pick it up and place it in a plastic bag. Check your local regulations before disposing of the squirrel in your garbage (some municipalities may have other requirements).

See also:


Featured Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

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