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Dr. Lajos
Dr. Lajos, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 857
Experience:  DVM for 10 years, Emergency Medicine Experience, Veterinary Pathologist
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My dog just bit and killed a possum in our back yard.

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My dog just bit and killed a possum in our back yard. Our dog is in need of a rabies booster and I am now very worried. Should I take him to an emergency animal clinic tonight for a rabies shot? What should I do?

Welcome to JustAnswer

I have a few questions to ask to help me answer you.

First, I don't expect you need to go to the vet tonight unless your dog is injured.

How long since your dog's last rabies vaccine?

Did your dog suffer any injuries?

Was the opossum acting strangely or seemingly ill?

Thanks

Customer: replied 7 years ago.

I think he had his last three-year rabies shot in July 2005.

No injuries that I can see.

Our dogs have a 21 x 42-foot dog run/pen and so are rarely exposed to other animals. I was not aware that the possum was in the dog pen until I went out to bring my dogs in (they were out for the last time this evening -- only about five minutes or so -- and when I went out to bring them in, the shepherd would not come in and I saw that he was standing over the dead possum. My husband shoveled the possum up and said he had been recently killed.

So, I can't comment on the opossum's behavior.

Customer: replied 7 years ago.

I was wrong -- our dog was injured. I just checked him over and there is a bite on the left side, just below his neck, and there is blood -- though not much blood and not currently bleeding.

Okay, thanks for the information.

There is very little risk that the opossum would have had rabies. While it is possible for any mammal to get and transmit rabies, it is very rare in the opossum. Since your dog has had more than one rabies vaccine and was on the 3 year type he probably still has more than adequate protection. The vaccine lasts longer than 3 years, but due to regulations, certain testing as well as local laws call for a repeat every three years in adult up-to-date dogs.

Thanks for the update:

You can clean and rinse the wound with plenty of warm water and a small amount of 3% hydrogen peroxide, just a small amount, and apply some triple antibiotic around the edges. You can wait and take your dog in tomorrow to have the bite checked. They are often times not closed, just cleaned, allowed to heal, with sometimes antibiotics administered..

I would recommend getting the rabies boostered soon.

You can also dig up the opossum, put it in a plastic bag and on ice in a cooler and have it submitted for rabies testing if you want to double check. You vet or local animal control can tell you how to get this done.

I hope this helps

Please let me know if you have any follow-on questions
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Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Thank you. I just cleaned the wound and it turns out that the blood must have been from the opposum -- the blood was on my dog's hair, but there is no puncture/wound in his skin.

I did bag the opposum and it is very cold here in Michigan -- temps in the 30s -- so I will leave it outside tonight, protected, so other animals can't get to it -- and bring it to the vet tomorrow.

I will also bring my dog in for a rabies booster tomorrow. So, no need to race to the emergency room tonight, then?

No. I don't see any need to go tonight. Glad to hear he wasn't bitten, even less chance of getting anything that way.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Thank you so much! You have really put my mind at ease -- I'll be able to sleep better tonight and will take my dog in first thing in the morning!

I so appreciate your help!

You are very welcome. I'm sure your dog will be fine.