My Dog Ate A Squirrel

Photo by Orhan on Flickr

My youngest Golden Retriever gets very excited by the sight of a squirrel in a tree and loves to chase them.

Not that she has ever caught one because she hasn’t the raw speed or the prey drive.

And I’m not convinced that if she did catch one, that she’d kill it. She is more likely to sniff and lick it!

But there are lots of dogs out there who do catch and kill squirrels, which for some owners must be quite upsetting.

What should you do if your dog eats a squirrel?

Most dogs that kill and eat a squirrel should be absolutely fine.

Squirrels aren’t poisonous to dogs.

The worst that can happen is that your dog might suffer from a bit of sickness and diarrhea.

After a squirrel is a potent mix of fur, meat and bones!

But, if you want a bit more proof. 

Read this conversation about dogs eating squirrels on a forum

I feed my dogs a raw food diet and they have occasionally eaten a whole squirrel (including fur) and not suffered in any way.

A few days later I possibly saw a bit of excess fluff or fur come out in their stool but that was the only difference.

And I think that dogs on a raw diet will probably fare better eating a wild squirrel than dogs who are fed dry food.

This is because the digestion system of dogs who are fed raw food are used to “processing” the mixture of fur, meat and bones.

Whereas to dogs who are fed kibble, a whole squirrel might be a bit of a shock to the digestive system!

Why do dogs chase and kill squirrels?

Many dog breeds chase and kill squirrels because it is in their DNA.

No matter what breed of dog that we have, for most of us the role that they play in our lives is as a cherished companion.

This change has happened in the last 150 years

But for much of the thirty thousand years that they have been domesticated, their primary role was to work for and with people. 

And several breeds of dog were bred specifically to catch rats and mice as a way to protect the grain and other crops on farms. 

And one of the best breeds to kill rodents are Terriers.

5 ways that eating a live squirrel can be dangerous

Unfortunately, you cannot guarantee that a squirrel will be safe for your dog to eat.

Any animal (including humans) have the potential to carry and transmit a whole host of infections and diseases. 

And this is true of squirrels. 

I will look at the threat posed by live and dead squirrels separately.

Firstly, what are the potential diseases that live squirrels might carry?

Four diseases that squirrels carry that may threaten your dog

In this section, I will look at the top four diseases that live squirrels are known to carry.

Squirrels carry more diseases than these four.

But it is important to realise that the chances of your dog catching any of these diseases is minute. 

[1] Lyme disease

The most serious disease that grey squirrels carry is Lyme disease. 

Lyme disease is carried by a nasty little insect called a tick. 

Squirrels carry them as do deer and sheep. 

Dogs can get Lyme disease, as can humans and it is a devastating disease for both. 

In dogs the symptoms include fever, lameness and swelling of joints. It can lead to kidney failure and eventually death. 

Dogs can’t get Lyme disease from eating a squirrel, they will need to be bitten by a tick on the squirrel.

And how likely is that? It sounds very unlikely to me. 

But I do know that around 12% of all grey squirrels in the UK carry the disease.

Unfortunately I can’t find any statistics for the US…

[2] Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacteria infection, which although rare, can affect dogs.

Squirrels carry this disease and pass it on via their urine or when they are eaten by another animal (such as a dog.)

What is quite worrying is how varied the symptoms are and the severity with which this can infect dogs.

Some dogs will catch it and display no symptoms and make a full recovery.

Other dogs will catch it and display symptoms which include increased thirst, changes in the frequency of urination, jaundice.

They will then die from it. 

[3] Tapeworm and Roundworm

This seems to affect squirrels in the US far more than the UK.

Squirrels catch a very nasty form of roundworm from Racoons and this disease can be passed onto dogs from eating an infected squirrel

[4] Coccidia

Squirrels do carry the parasite coccidia but it is a parasite which seems to be species specific.

So a squirrel will usually only pass coccidia onto another squirrel.

And yes, dogs (particularly puppies) are susceptible to coccidia but this by ingesting infected feces from their mothers. 

Four threats that dead squirrels might pose to your dog

If your dog has the prey drive of a teddy bear but the scavenging instinct of…a dog, then it might not be live squirrel on the menu but dead squirrel instead.

A squirrel can be a threat to your dog’s health even when it is dead, or perhaps I should say particularly when it is dead. 

[1] Poison

And the real threat from your dog eating a dead squirrel is that the squirrel died because it had been poisoned. 

Squirrels are seen as pests and vermin for a number of reasons. These include the fact that they carry diseases and that they can cause damage to property.

In the UK grey squirrels can also be targeted because they are responsible for the demise of beautiful red squirrels.

Just look at the website of your local pest exterminator company- one of the animals that they will help you to get rid of is a squirrel. 

Poison used on a squirrel will be very toxic or even lethal for your dog.

Symptoms may not show up for a few days afterwards, which by then could be too late for your dog.

They include lots of bleeding and breathing difficulties. 

[2] Parasites

I mentioned tapeworms and roundworms in the section above when I discussed the threats that eating live squirrels posed.

But parasites like tapeworms and roundworms can also survive for weeks and months in carcasses (such as squirrels) and their eggs can survive for similar amounts of time in the ground. 

[3] Maggots

The third threat that a dead squirrel might pose to your dog, is that the carcass might be infested with maggots.

Now, maggots aren’t toxic to dogs but they might increase the chances of your dog vomiting back up the carcass in absolute disgust. 

[4] Choking hazard

And my last threat I could have placed in either the live or dead squirrel section. 

Eating a squirrel is a choking hazard.

Many items are choking hazards for dogs, not just squirrels.

It is just that squirrels a certain size and a certain texture which makes it harder for dogs to eat them successfully.

Hang on, what do I mean by texture?

Well, I’m thinking of all of that fur and that fluffy tail.

As well as the fur you have got all of those bones, which could be a choking hazard.

My dog ate squirrel poop- should I be worried?

Squirrel poop and squirrel urine are threats to your dog’s health.

Leptospirosis (the bacterial infection discussed earlier) is spread via squirrel urine.

Any animal poop can be infected with parasites and this includes squirrel feces, which can carry thousands of tiny worm eggs. 

My dog ate a squirrel’s tail- should I be worried?

It is very unlikely that ingesting a squirrel’s tail will do your dog any harm.

The tail is very fluffy and so that it can be quite a handful to swallow without vomiting it back up.

The only worry about a dog eating a squirrel’s tail is if there was any fecal matter on it.

Fecal matter which could contain a parasite or two. 

Is squirrel safer if you cook it?

Wow, this is a very interesting question. 

I said at the start of this article that my dogs had been fed raw squirrels before, squirrels that I bought from a raw food shop

I know that cooking certain meats is a way of killing off potentially harmful bacteria.

Take chicken for example. 

Raw chicken contains various bacteria including salmonella which is killed when it is cooked. 

Not surprisingly, I can’t find any information on the bacteria that squirrel meat might contain and whether it is killed when the squirrel is cooked.

Another factor in this, is the risk that comes with cooking the squirrel in your own kitchen.

Could the process of preparing it and cooking it potentially infect your kitchen with harmful bacteria?

I don’t think that I would be brave enough to cook a squirrel in my kitchen.

And let’s not forget that ideally if you cook any meat for dogs, you need to take out as many bones as you can.

This is because cooked animal bones become very brittle and splinter very easily.

And splintered bones can act like daggers within a dog’s body!