Wild Animals/ground rodents


I live in Scottsdale, AZ where the lawns are irrigated and always green.  Some of the lawns have rodent holes/mounds.  I don't know if these are mole, rat or gopher holes.  Is my dog at risk of catching some disease if she sniffs the hole?  If so, what type of disease might she be exposed to from these rodents?  Thanks, Julie

Dear Julie

Thank you for your question. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

http://www.2ndchance.info/leptospirosis.htm says that dogs can catch leptospirosis from rats and other wildlife, most often in states with heavy rainfall. The carrier animals tend to void leptospirosis organisms into their urine and dogs can become infected by sniffing this urine. Unless the holes or mounds have a large concentration of infected urine, it is unlikely that your dog will become infected by sniffing them. The leptospira can occur in standing water and pets can develop the disease by wading or swimming in the water or by drinking it. Leptospira can also enter if an infected animal bites the dog or if the dog eats infected materials.

KingCounty (http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/ehs/zoonotics/PocketPets.aspx) says wild rodents can carry many diseases including hantavirus, leptospirosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV), Tularemia and Salmonella. Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is a severe illness caused from exposure to the droppings or urine of deer mice that carry the virus. Plague is caused by bacteria and is usually caused by the bite of a flea that has fed on an infected wild animal, such as a rat, chipmunk or prairie dog. Dogs can become infected and spread the disease to humans. Tularemia is a bacterial disease most commonly found in wild rodents and some other wild animals. People and their pets can become ill from tularemia by coming into contact with infected dead or ill animals through animal bites and exposure to contaminated blood or raw meat. Rat bite fever is a bacterial disease. The bacteria are carried by rats in their mouth and nose. People and dogs can get infected through bites or scratches by rats. Monkeypox is a disease caused by a virus that can occur in rats, mice and prairie dogs. People get monkeypox from an animal with the virus if they are bitten or if they touch the animal's body fluid or blood.

http://www.azdhs.gov/phs/oids/vector/plague/ says there have been cases of plague in Arizona.

I don't think there is much of a risk of your dog sniffing at rodent holes or mounds, but if a wild animal bites your dog, you should take your dog to a vet. Please note that the sense of smell is very important to a dog and your dog is probably more at risk of catching a disease by sniffing other dogs, but dogs seem to do this very regularly and I don't think there are many cases of dogs catching diseases from this.

I hope this helps.

All the best


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Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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