Can Squirrels Get Rabies? Identifying A Rabid Rodent

Gurpuneet Kaur
Jan 20, 2023 By Gurpuneet Kaur
Originally Published on Oct 24, 2021
Edited by Lara Simpson
Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao
A cute squirrel eating a strawberry.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 5.7 Min

Small rodents rarely carry rabies, and even if attacked by a rabid predator, they rarely survive the attack.

Warm-blooded mammals are the common victims of the rabies virus. All mammals are warm-blooded, and so is a squirrel.

Squirrels are wild animals, and you can often spot them in your backyard. Squirrels are pretty common.

You may not find them in your backyard but sighting the wild animal isn't rare. A squirrel is a small mammal. Although warm-blooded mammals and rodents carry rabies, small mammals like chipmunks, rabbits, mice, rats, hamsters, beavers, guinea pigs and prairie dogs are not known to transmit the rabies virus.

It is very unusual for a squirrel to get infected with rabies, but it does not mean that squirrels cannot have diseases. Likewise, a squirrel is unlikely to transmit rabies to humans even if they are bitten by one.

Symptoms like aggression, seizures, paralysis, fearfulness, drooling excessively, difficulty in swallowing, and staggering are pretty typical for animals carrying rabies. Often the animal begins showing these symptoms within three to five days since the virus reaches the brain and causes enough damage to make it show unmistakable signs of carrying the transmissible disease.

What sort of disease is rabies?

Rabies or Lyssavirus is a disease that wrecks the central nervous system of an animal. It is a deadly virus that is often transmitted through saliva and often leads to the death of infected animals in a few days.

If you enjoyed this article, why not also read about are squirrels nocturnal and how much does a squirrel weigh here on Kidadl?

What diseases do squirrels carry?

An infected wild animal may not be provided the same treatment as a domestic pet. To ensure a healthy life for wildlife creatures, you should know about potential animal infections and other medical diseases. A squirrel is a wild animal that can have several health disorders or ailments while it rarely carries rabies.

Although a squirrel is a wild animal, it is often found around human habilitations. Besides the risk of being bitten or attacked by squirrels and other rodents, humans are also at risk of catching a disease from an animal carrying an infection.

Some health disorders, conditions, or ailments, such as Lyme disease, can be transmitted from squirrels to humans, though rarely is rabies one of these conditions.

Leptospirosis is another ailment, a bacterial infection, that can be transmitted if an open wound comes in contact with the animal's urine. Though initial signs and symptoms vary from headaches, rashes, fever, and vomits, the infection can worsen into a kidney failure if not provided appropriate treatment. Often squirrels do not require to bite to transmit diseases.

If not treated, Lyme disease may result in heart palpitations, arthritis, facial palsy, or severe symptoms. Salmonellosis is yet another bacterial infection that often spreads through animal feces.

The treatment of the condition does not always require antibiotics; instead, it involves replenishing electrolytes and hydration. Medical professionals such as veterinarians are prone to tularemia as it spreads from handling sick or dead animals. With proper medical treatment, patients with tularemia often recover.

Signs And Symptoms Of Rabies In Squirrels

Rabies is a viral disease impacting the central nervous system that either spreads through the exposure of saliva of an infected animal or after contact with an open wound or mucus membranes such as nose, eyes, or mouth. Although it is pretty unusual to encounter a squirrel carrying rabies, there is no harm in staying well informed.

Rabies is known to immediately affect the brain of the animals within two to three initial days.

Thus, initial signs and symptoms observed in rabid animals include mood swings, confused behavior or uncharacteristic behavior, aggression, difficulty in balancing, sensitivity to light or blindness, paralysis, especially in the throat and jaw, and excessive secretion of saliva or foaming from the mouth.

Animals may carry rabies for months without showing any signs or symptoms.

Therefore, it is best to avoid interacting with them as a measure of control and prevention from becoming infected. The wild animals can also pose a risk to either attack or bite a human if in contact.

Two Squirrels Perched on an Outdoor Chair.

Do I need a rabies shot for a squirrel bite?

Treating animal bites is necessary. If you are bitten by a wild species, do not take it lightly! Those bites could be dangerous.

The bite area or wound should be examined quickly by a medical professional or doctor. Before heading to a local doctor, it is best to wash the bite area with water immediately.

Likewise, squirrel bites are unusual to have rabies, but that does not mean that it is not infectious. To ensure safety and health, get a medical examination done. However, a rabies shot is not always necessary after an encounter of attack by squirrels or if they bit you.

Caution! If you don't need a rabies shot for a squirrel bite, it does not mean the bite area does not require a medical examination. Similarly, squirrels being unusual to have rabies does not mean that they won't ever pose a risk of having rabies.

Can squirrels give rabies to dogs?

Rabies spread through physical contact like a bite or a scratch, and rodents are the common carriers of rabies. Be it human or domestic pets such as cats and dogs; a rabid squirrel can carry rabies to any wildlife creature it bites or attacks.

Although rabies is uncommon in a squirrel, a dog can have rabies after being bitten by a squirrel carrying rabies, which is quite rare.

A piece of advice, keep your pets distant from squirrels and other rodents suspected of carrying rabies. Also, if possible, get animals carrying rabies treated.

Why is a squirrel acting erratically?

Erratic behavior is quite common in squirrels carrying rabies.

Some common signs of erratic behavior are flicking tails excessively, spreading out on the ground, producing grunting noises, losing balance, portraying aggressive behavior, and suddenly changing its routine, including eating and sleeping at irregular times. Nonetheless, squirrels and other animals often act erratically when they are ill or weak, and the symptom is not only associated with rabies.

Concerns That Arise From Squirrel Bites

Although a squirrel rarely has rabies, it has the potential of carrying other viruses and infections. Necrotizing fasciitis is the most severe bacterial infection caused by a squirrel's bite.

Leptospirosis, Lyme, salmonellosis, tularemia, and rabies are other potential infections and disorders spread by a squirrel's bite, thus, seek medical attention as soon as possible!

How to safely deal with rabid squirrels?

Initially, protect your house from animals carrying rabies. Wondering how? Use electric lines and utility poles for risk-free handling of squirrels and other wild animals.

If you can't get rid of squirrels at your place, either avoid contacting them or head to a wildlife professional for help.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for can squirrels get rabies, then why not take a look at baby squirrel care or Arctic ground squirrel facts?

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Written by Gurpuneet Kaur

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Gurpuneet Kaur picture

Gurpuneet KaurBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

As a skilled content writer, Gurpuneet has written and managed engaging content for multiple websites and companies. Driven by a passion for helping young people achieve their full potential, she brings a unique perspective to her work. She is currently pursuing a degree in Economics from Sri Guru Gobind Singh College Of Commerce. With extensive experience as a tutor, Gurpuneet has made a significant impact by providing guidance and academic support to students. Her dedication extends beyond tutoring as she has volunteered with Action India, where she offered medical assistance and educational aid to underprivileged communities. Additionally, Gurpuneet has contributed to the creation of student study guides for various educational agencies.

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Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao

Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

Pradhanya Rao picture

Pradhanya RaoBachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

With a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Christ University, Bangalore, Pradhanya's passion for the English language and literature led her to explore the field of content writing, where she has gained extensive experience in writing, reviewing, editing, and fact-checking. She has also earned certifications in Google Ads Search, Google Ads Display, and Social Media Marketing, showcasing her proficiency in digital marketing.

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