It was a cold winter day and the sun had been absent for weeks. The sky was grey and overcast, not a single flake of snow fell from the sky. I exited my house with my dog ahead of me to go run some errands before work.
As we walked down the sidewalk I spotted something in the grass that looked like it could be an animal but figured it was only another piece of trash blowing by on the wind. My dog ran ahead and then stopped abruptly at what appeared to have been a small squirrel carcass halfway buried in leaves that were now brown and crunchy from lack of rain.
She sniffed around it for a moment as if she recognized its scent before picking up one end with her mouth and then proceeded to eat it bit by bit.
I luckily got most of it out of her mouth but then I thought, should I be worried about this?
I did some research and checked with a vet and this is what I found out.
Table of Contents
Check for these Signs
Look over your dog to see if they’ve picked up any ticks. While it might sound weird, the biggest concern if your dog ate a wild squirrel is whether or not they picked up ticks off the animal.
Sometimes these parasites will hide in the grass and latch onto any mammals who are fighting, which increases the risk that your dog may have gotten one. Deer ticks and other related animals carry Lyme disease, which can cause serious problems in dogs.
Certain squirrels carry leptospirosis, so pay close attention to see if your dog develops any abdominal pain or discomfort in the lower extremities. This can be a sign of serious kidney problems, which may worsen over time.
Rabies kills squirrels quickly, so there’s little risk of developing it from coming into contact with a live one. That being said, you’ll want to make sure that your dog doesn’t show any of the signs of rabies-like shivering or foaming at the mouth.
Dogs who eat squirrels who’ve ingested poisons from treated lawns or gardens are usually at the highest risk for developing some sort of potential problem, but it can be very difficult to tell whether or not any given animal was tainted. The kind of problems a dog may develop include:
- Purging: Squirrel meat that’s been tainted with lawn poisons can cause extremely intense vomiting
- Organ damage: Ticks may transfer to dogs who chase squirrels, which can then transmit Lyme disease
- Lethargy: Some squirrels have roundworms in them, which will zap the nutrients from your dog’s diet
- Loose stool: Any intestinal parasites that dogs could get from squirrels might cause diarrhea-like symptoms
- Blood in stool: Coccidia is a parasite sometimes found in squirrel meat that can make dogs develop severe intestinal problems, and the same can come from meat that’s been tainted with poisons
While it’s unlawful in most areas to poison squirrels, that doesn’t mean that squirrels won’t eat material left out for rats so that’s still a concern. In most cases, dogs who get out and kill one squirrel usually won’t experience any ill effects from it.
What to Do
Treat any cuts, scratches, or bites that your dog may have taken while they were going after the squirrel they ate. Some veterinarians have recommended using hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol to help reduce the chance that your dog will develop any sort of flesh infection from being scratched up.
In some cases, this should be enough and your dog won’t experience any other ill effects from eating a squirrel. Watch them closely for a few days and give them some extra water to see if any intestinal problems develop.
Your dog may have to go to the vet if he or she starts to experience any problems related to intestinal parasites. Assuming that they don’t, however, you’ll want to take some extra steps to make sure that your dog doesn’t end up chasing squirrels all over again.
Do I Need to See the Vet or Go to the Emergency Animal Hospital?
Most of the ill effects that a dog could develop from eating a squirrel are long-term conditions and should be dealt with by a regular family vet’s office. However, you’ll want to consider taking your dog to an emergency animal hospital if he or she shows any signs of a fever or has started to shake.
Vomiting or diarrhea is another reason you might want to get to an animal hospital because these could indicate either a parasitic infection or possible exposure to poison. That being said, it’s important to remember that chasing squirrels is normal behavior for dogs and it’s something that most can recover from relatively shortly.
While most pet owners won’t want to encourage this behavior, it is normal and dogs have digestive enzymes that can process at least some of the things that they’ll come into contact with when they eat a squirrel. Keep in mind that you will want to treat any cuts or scratches that they get in the process.
You’ll also want to consider how much of the squirrel that they were actually able to consume in the process.
Safe Alternatives to Eat
Prepared squirrel and other game meats can be purchased at a relatively reasonable price and prepared according to simple recipes that are safe for dogs to eat. This can sometimes help to assuage the need that dogs have to chase after animals.
Some of the better pet supply places, both in-person and online, have started to offer this kind of product along with other natural treats. Any of these should be really appealing to pretty much any dog.
If you make sure to feed your dog properly and regularly, then you might find that they don’t go out of their way to look for other sources of food anyway. You may want to consider supplementing their diet with a little wet dog food as well, in the hopes of further helping to reduce their need for wild meat.
Can Dogs Eat Squirrel?
Wild and feral dogs generally eat squirrels as part of their natural diet. Domestic dogs can to a degree, but they usually prove to be less resilient when fighting them and may end up getting at least some kind of minor infection in the process.
This is in part because they’re not as tough when it comes to dealing with parasites. Wild animals are regularly exposed to certain stressors, and that means that they’re going to be prepared to deal with them.
Some hunters will actually cook some squirrels that they take from a reserve, and these are usually safe for both dogs and their owners to eat when prepared correctly. If you plan on giving any prepared squirrel meat to your dog, then make sure that you don’t use seasoning or anything else that might upset their stomach.