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Ask the Veterinarian/Dog trying to play with possum


QUESTION: Hi there

I have a very small beagle, she is probably 15 pounds. We've had a possum visit our yard twice recently and she can't seem to resist trying to play with it. She doesn't appear to be interested in harming it, she just runs up and jumps at it or paws and then runs away like she does with our other beagle when she's trying to get chased and play. After a few minutes I have gotten her to back off enough that I could grab her. As far as I can tell neither she or the possum have gotten any scratches or bites from each other. I know that we're going to have to figure out how the possum is getting in and deal with that but are there any diseases or illnesses she could've gotten by being in close contact with it?


ANSWER: It's really not a good idea at all to let your beagle "play" with a possum. Despite the videos you see online of dogs playing with deer and foxes, both bad ideas as well, opossums only care about getting away or attacking if they need to.

Opossums have more teeth than any other animal(42)and if I had photos of the dogs that came into our clinic ripped to shreds from opossums, then you would understand that you do NOT let them play or try to play.

A healthy wild animal will only see your dog as the enemy, and act accordingly.
That can mean some really huge vets bills for you and the possibility of your dog being killed.

Your dog probably really does want to play, but opossums are not the brightest bulbs in the box and will only see your dogs overtures as threat displays. They barely play with each other as babies.

So please, keep your dog inside while the possum is in the yard. Keep your garbage cans closed so they aren't attracted to them and don't feed them.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Lol, I guess sarcasm/joking doesn't translate well. I know she shouldn't be going up to it and I was TERRIFIED and yelling at her the whole time. I just meant that she seems to think it's another dog or something she can be friends with and hasn't bitten it or drawn blood. My main question was just whether or not there are any illnesses or diseases she could contract just by being in close contact with it?

I found the hole in the fence and boarded it up today so hopefully this will not be a problem from now on.

I'm sorry- it's sometimes hard to read sarcasm online. :-)

Fleas are the main worry- but with those fleas can be a tapeworm that can cause a lot of harm to horses and humans.

Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) is the disease that horses can get from opossums. It is caused by a parasite that some opossums carry,  

Here is a list provided by the Santa Clara Vector control:

"Opossums carry a variety of ectoparasites such as fleas, ticks, mites and lice that may also bite humans. Fleas are common on opossums, flea eggs and larva, are shed in areas frequented by opossums.
Murine Typhus has been transmitted to humans by the fleas of opossums in Southern California. Other diseases opossums may carry include; tularemia, salmonella, toxoplasmosis, and coccidiosis.

Infected animals may transmit Leptospirosis to humans and other animals through their urine and feces. Rabies is rare in opossums since they have some immunity to the virus. Pets, horses and other wildlife are also at risk for disease infection associated with opossums."

Lepospirosis is a serious threat to both humans and dogs, and it's transmitted via urine usually. Good reason to keep them out of your yard. People have had dogs get this disease (which attacks the kidneys) from opossums that have climbed up onto decks and urinated on the wooden deck.

Here is more information on opossums in general:

And one you might enjoy:

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Jana Connell RVT, CVT


PLEASE READ BEFORE SUBMITTING TO ME: I am NOT a vet and do NOT diagnose diseases. That is only for a licensed Veterinarian to do. I will give you suggestions and steer you toward calling your vet for help. You can call the vet's office and talk to the technician there or the vet at times. Don't be afraid to call them! If you have a serious issue with your pet please post it to one of the veterinarians in here- I will tell you the same thing in my answer. IF your pet is injured or in an emergency situation, CALL YOUR VET- Do not wait and post in here. Just call the vet's office and get them in to see the vet right away. Critical treatment time is lost if you seek answers here when you should have your precious pet at the vets!! Don't sit at home waiting for an answer when your pet is critically ill or injured!! I can answer most questions about small animal and wildlife care as well as small animal nutrition. I can also answer questions about all phases of dental care for small animals. I DO NOT answer questions about birds (unless it is wildlife or songbirds) or HAMSTERS/GERBILS/CHINS/GUINEA PIGS/REPTILES/FROGS/RABBITS/PET BIRDS OF ANY KIND so please submit these questions to the appropriate sections. I, as well as other experts in here, do NOT do homework questions- that is for YOU to do! Please respect these rules for all of us. Thanks!


I have over 42 years experience in the field of veterinary medicine. I specialized in small animals and did wildlife rehab for over 25 years, mostly raptors, squirrels and opossums. I am a Small Animal Nutritional Consultant with 6 certificates from Hills Pet Foods, CNM and Purina. I also specialized in Small Animal Dentistry which is a field I truly love. I also Teach Veterinary Technology to working technicians who are studying to take their California Tests to become Licensed Technicians. They have to take both the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Exam) and the California boards.

Audubon,World Wildlife Federation, American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians.


Licensed with California and Oregon, RVT and CVT. Certified Veterinary Dental Technician Have over 1500 logged hours of Continuing Education Credits(that means I keep up to date!).

Awards and Honors
Nominated for Expert of the Month for the last 5 years.

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