Do Squirrels Carry Rabies? Facts to Stay Safe

Do squirrels carry rabies? No squirrels don’t carry rabies. Yes, it’s true! So, next time you see one of those little critters, there’s no need to worry. But if you’re curious for more details, keep reading because we’ve got some awesome facts about squirrels and rabies that you’ll definitely find interesting.

do squirrels carry rabies: fox squirrel on tree branch

Do Squirrels Carry Rabies?

According to the CDC, squirrels are rarely infected with rabies. While they can theoretically carry the virus, it is extremely uncommon. Most rabies cases are found in animals like bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.

What You Should Know

  1. Rabies is a serious disease: Rabies is a dangerous, often fatal disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. It’s mainly transmitted through the bites or scratches of infected animals.
  2. Rabies is rare in squirrels: Although squirrels are mammals and theoretically could contract rabies, it’s extremely uncommon for them to carry the disease.
  3. Immediate treatment is crucial: If a potentially rabid animal has bitten you, seeking immediate medical attention is vital. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can prevent rabies if started before symptoms appear.
  4. Prevention is key: Keeping pets vaccinated against rabies, avoiding contact with wild animals, and educating others about rabies can help prevent the spread of this deadly disease.

What is Rabies, and How is it Transmitted?

Now, on to this notorious villain called Rabies (Lyssavirus). It’s a virus that causes havoc in your brain and spinal cord. It’s not pretty, and it’s seriously dangerous. You may ask, how do you get this? It usually sneaks in through a bite or a scratch from an infected animal.

Think about those animals you don’t see often – like stray dogs, raccoons, skunks, or even bats. These are the animals most likely to carry the virus. The virus isn’t just in their bite; it’s in their saliva and brain tissue. So even if they don’t bite you, you could still be at risk if you contact them. Stay alert and stay safe!

young eastern grey squirrel peaking over a wall

Get the Facts – Do Squirrels Carry Rabies?

Here are some common myths about squirrels and rabies that aren’t true!

  1. Myth: All squirrels carry rabies – This is completely false. While any mammal could potentially contract rabies, it’s extremely rare for squirrels. They’re not typically carriers of this disease.
  2. Myth: If a squirrel bites you, you will definitely get rabies – Another untrue story. The chances of a squirrel transmitting rabies to humans is nearly non-existent. Remember, they’re not common carriers of the virus. If you get bitten by a squirrel, rabies isn’t the main concern, but the wound should still be cleaned properly to prevent other infections.
  3. Myth: A squirrel acting strangely or aggressively must have rabies – Not necessarily true. While rabid animals can display abnormal behavior, squirrels may act strangely or aggressively for other reasons. It could be due to an injury, illness, or feeling threatened. However, if you encounter a wild animal acting unusually, don’t hesitate to contact a rehabber in your area. Despite this, it’s worth noting that squirrels rarely carry rabies.

Looking for a Rehabber? Here are 3 Resources

What the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) Says About Rabies

The disease can affect any mammal, which includes wild animals, domestic animals, and even humans. Most rabies cases come from infected wildlife.

A direct statement from the CDC about rabies, “Small rodents (like squirrels, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rats, and mice) and lagomorphs (including rabbits and hares) are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to transmit rabies to humans.”

In the United States, the CDC also reports that 7 out of 10 people who have died from rabies contracted the virus from a rabid bat.

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What Animals Carry Rabies the Most?

According to the CDC, bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and coyotes are the wild animals most commonly infected with the rabies virus in the United States.

What Animals Don’t Get Rabies?

Let’s break it down: Rabies is a virus that affects mammals. Now, what exactly is a mammal? Think of warm and fuzzy creatures like dogs, cats, and squirrels. And yes, that includes us humans too! We fall under the mammal category.

On the other hand, birds, snakes, and fish are not mammals. They have different characteristics and body structures. Since they lack fur and have different biological systems, they are not susceptible to rabies. That also means you can’t contract rabies from them either.

ground squirrel eating a snack

Do Flying Squirrels Carry Rabies?

Flying squirrels, like other squirrels, are not known to carry or transmit rabies. It’s important to remember that the risk of rabies transmission is generally low in squirrels, including flying squirrels.

However, if you encounter a sick or injured squirrel, it’s always best to avoid contact and notify the appropriate local wildlife authorities or animal control for assistance. They can assess the situation and guide how to proceed safely.

flying squirrel with nut in its mouth

Can Squirrels Transmit Rabies to Humans?

Yes, squirrels can transmit rabies to humans through saliva, bites, wounds, scratches, or contact with mucous membranes. However, squirrels carrying the rabies virus are rare.

Signs and Symptoms of Rabies in Squirrels

You can’t always tell if a squirrel has rabies by looking at it.

Common Signs of Rabies in Wildlife or Other Animals

One of the most common signs of rabies is weird or unexpected behavior. This uncharacteristic behavior usually takes one of two forms: extreme aggression or unusual docility.

Aggressive animals may be vicious, snarling, and biting, while docile animals seem to lose their instinct to avoid humans and appear unusually calm and approachable.

If you see a squirrel behaving strangely or interacting with one, contact your local animal control immediately or the local rehabber, and don’t approach the squirrel. Leave this task to the animal control professionals.

four baby ground squirrels side by side

What if My Pet Has Rabies?

If you suspect that your beloved furry friend may have rabies, it’s essential to act promptly and reach out to your veterinarian without delay. I understand that this can be a distressing situation because if your pet has been socializing with other animals, there is a possibility that more than just good times were shared.

Here comes the challenging part that no pet owner wants to face. Your cherished companion will need to undergo a period of quarantine as your veterinarian conducts tests for rabies. If those tests reveal a positive result, I’m afraid some difficult news awaits.

It’s important to know that there is no known cure for rabies in animals. Sadly, this disease inevitably leads to a heartbreaking outcome. Your veterinarian may advise you to consider an incredibly tough decision – the time might have come to bid farewell to your dear pet.

Making such a heart-wrenching choice is agonizing, but it’s crucial for the safety and well-being of everyone involved – your family, yourself, and the people around you.

What are the Major Symptoms of an Animal with Rabies?

  • Paralysis
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Loss of balance
  • Aggression
  • Confused behavior
  • Mood changes- virus attacks the nervous system.
  • Difficulty walking
  • Excessive Circling
  • Paralyzed legs
  • Looks disoriented
  • Appears drunk
  • Mutilating itself

Can You Get Rabies from Touching a Squirrel?

You find yourself in a situation where you’ve come into contact with a squirrel, and now you’re concerned about the possibility of contracting rabies. Take a deep breath, and let me give you the facts.

If you haven’t been bitten or scratched by the squirrel, your chances of getting rabies are slim. Even if the squirrel appears unusual or acts strangely, the likelihood of transmitting the disease to you remains very low. Instances of rabid squirrels are extremely rare.

In a nutshell, the chances of encountering a rabid squirrel are minuscule. So, there’s no need to worry about contracting rabies from such an encounter. Take a moment to relax and breathe easy, my friend. You’re likely in the clear!

do squirrels carry rabies - fox squirrel eating an almond

What if a Squirrel Bites You?

If a squirrel bites you, here is what you need to do!

  1. Clean the Wound: First, rinse the area with warm water and mild soap to clean the wound. This can help to remove any dirt or bacteria.
  2. Apply an Antiseptic: Use an antiseptic, like hydrogen peroxide or iodine, to disinfect the wound.
  3. Cover the Wound: After cleaning, apply an antibiotic ointment and cover it with a clean bandage or dressing.
  4. Get Medical Help: It’s essential to seek professional medical attention immediately, even if the wound doesn’t seem serious. This is because any animal bite could potentially carry diseases or cause infection.
  5. Follow Up: Keep an eye on the wound for signs of infection, like redness, swelling, or pus. And, if you haven’t already, check your tetanus shot status with your doctor.
  6. Observe the Squirrel: If possible, monitor the squirrel’s behavior or inform the local animal control about the incident. They can help monitor for signs of rabies, which is rare but can be severe if contracted.

Remember, this is general advice, and a healthcare professional will give you the most accurate and appropriate treatment for your specific situation.

What is the Treatment for Rabies?

Absolutely. Here’s the basic rundown on treating rabies:

  1. Immediate Care: If you’ve been bitten or scratched by an animal that might have rabies, first things first – clean the wound with soap and water. This helps to wash away the virus.
  2. Medical Attention: Next, get to a doctor as soon as possible. They’ll evaluate the situation and decide the next steps.
  3. Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP): If the doctor suspects you could have been exposed to rabies, they’ll start a post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment. This is a series of shots given for two weeks.
  4. Rabies Vaccine: The first shot is a rabies vaccine that helps your body learn to fight off the virus.
  5. Rabies Immune Globulin: Along with the vaccine, you’ll get a shot of rabies immune globulin. This gives your immune system an instant boost to fight the virus immediately.

Now here’s the tricky part – once rabies symptoms show, there’s no effective treatment. Getting medical attention immediately is critical if you think you might have been exposed to the virus. Remember, early treatment is the key to beating rabies!

How Many People Die from Rabies?

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that rabies causes approximately 59,000 deaths globally annually. However, this is a preventable disease, and the actual number can vary yearly and depend on public health initiatives and access to medical care.

How Many Cases of Rabies in the United States?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are typically 1-3 human rabies cases yearly in the United States.

However, the exact number can vary from year to year. Factors like exposure to rabid animals, awareness and education about the disease, and public health initiatives can all impact the number of cases.

In the United States, rabies is present in all states except Hawaii. According to the CDC, bats account for 60% of human rabies cases, and dogs account for 39%.

Can Squirrels Give Rabies to Dogs?

While it is theoretically possible for any mammal to transmit rabies, it’s highly unlikely for a squirrel to give rabies to a dog. This is because squirrels are not common virus carriers and are rarely infected. Most dog rabies cases are from bites by rabid wildlife like bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.

However, if a squirrel bit a dog and the squirrel is infected (which is very rare), there’s a potential risk. That’s why it’s essential to keep pets’ rabies vaccinations up to date, and if your dog gets bitten by any wild animal, you should consult a veterinarian.

Can Dogs Get Rabies from Eating a Squirrel?

The most likely way for a dog to get rabies is through the bite of an infected animal.

One study found that out of over 12,000 gray squirrels captured and tested in Maine between 1969 and 2010, only two (2) had rabies.

Did you know that opossums and other marsupials, such as kangaroos are highly resistant to rabies.

Conclusion

The most important thing to remember is that if you see any animal acting strangely, you can best monitor them from a distance and call animal control or a local rehabber. Remember, if a squirrel bites you, wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical attention.

Let me share my story about Bart, the squirrel who had a funny habit of mistaking my fingers for a snack. You know how squirrels can be, always looking for a tasty treat with their nimble paws. Bart is a mischievous little rascal who can’t resist the temptation, even if it means jumping the queue.

You see, squirrels don’t have the greatest close-up vision. Imagine trying to see something under your nose without any glasses on! That’s why our furry friend here sometimes confuses my fingers for a delectable morsel.

Bart the Squirrel: When Fingers Became Irresistible Snacks

If you’re curious about why squirrels have this quirk in their vision, I encourage you to check out our piece titled “Why Are Squirrels So Jumpy!” We dive into the intriguing world of squirrel vision and uncover some fascinating insights.

FAQ – Do Squirrels Carry Rabies?

Do squirrels carry rabies?

While any mammal can theoretically carry rabies, it’s extremely rare in squirrels. Most rabies cases are found in wild animals like bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.

Can I get rabies from a squirrel bite?

The chance of getting rabies from a squirrel is extremely low. However, any animal bite should be cleaned and treated immediately to prevent possible infection.

What should I do if a squirrel bites me?

Clean the wound immediately with soap and water, apply an antiseptic, and cover the wound with a clean bandage. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

How can I protect myself from rabies?

Avoid contact with wild animals and ensure your pets are vaccinated against rabies. If you’re bitten, seek immediate medical attention.

What are the signs of a rabid squirrel?

Signs might include aggressive behavior, difficulty walking, or unusual vocalization. However, these signs can also be symptoms of other diseases or injuries. Remember, rabies in squirrels is very rare.

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44 Comments

    1. Thank you for your comment and that tidbit of information. I did a bit of research so I appreciate you bringing that to my attention. Much appreciated. Maddy

  1. Really appreciated the deep dive into squirrels and rabies. It’s something I’ve always wondered about with the little critters running around my yard. Always thought they were cute but untouchable because of disease fears. Turns out, maybe I was worrying too much?

  2. Merideth Sweeney, I found the part about ‘What Animals Carry Rabies the Most?’ particularly interesting. Could you provide a bit more detail on how squirrels compare to these animals in terms of rabies transmission? It’s crucial for those of us who love the outdoors to understand these risks. Thanks!

  3. Really enlightening piece on rabies in squirrels, Merideth Sweeney. I’ve always wondered about the likelihood of squirrels transmitting diseases to humans. It’s such a relief to have credible information that separates myth from fact.

  4. Good info here. didnt know much about this. so can kids play near squirrels in the park? always telling them to not touch but you know kids. they get curious.

  5. love how this article sheds light on squirrel rabies. i always thought all animals could get rabies but its good to know some are less likely. love squirrels, glad they’re not a big risk 🙂

  6. Great article, Merideth. Do you have any recommendations on how communities can better educate residents about the risks of rabies from local wildlife? It’s something we’re trying to improve in our town.

    1. That’s a good point, Sam. I think local workshops and school programs could really help. Also, maybe a partnership with wildlife rescuers to share their experiences could make a deep impact.

    2. Love both ideas! Education is key. Our neighborhood started a wildlife awareness program last spring, and it’s been great.

  7. Hmm, the section on ‘Do Flying Squirrels Carry Rabies?’ piqued my curiosity. Everywhere says rodents rarely get rabies, but you’re saying it’s still a possibility? Sounds a bit off, got any solid sources on that claim?

  8. Merideth Sweeney, this piece was a delightful read. The balance between offering critical information and maintaining an engaging narrative is quite impressive. It certainly dispels many myths about squirrels and rabies.

  9. Intriguing insights! However, it’s critical to note that while rare, the CDC does mention that any mammal can get rabies. Squirrels may not be common carriers, but overlooking the smallest chance could be dangerous.

  10. After reading about squirrel bites, I’m a bit on edge. My dog loves chasing them. If he ever caught one, could he get rabies from just grabbing it, or does it have to bite him?

    1. It’s important to understand that while it’s rare, rabies can be transmitted if saliva from an infected animal enters through an open wound or the mucous membranes. So, a bite isn’t the only way to transmit the disease. Best to avoid any contacts.

  11. I’m not convinced. Even if squirrels rarely carry rabies, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It feels like the article downplays the potential risks a bit too much for my liking.

  12. Fascinating read! I’ve been following squirrel behavior in urban environments, and rabies transmission is a topic that rarely gets covered in depth. Thanks for shedding light on this, Merideth!

  13. Fascinating read on the behavior of squirrels, especially concerning rabies. In my years photographing wildlife, I’ve observed squirrels closely but never knew this depth of information. This enhances both my understanding and respect for them.

  14. This was such an eye-opener! I always worried about my dog sniffing around squirrels during our walks. Knowing they’re not a big rabies risk is a relief.

  15. Ever think that squirrels are just the street acrobats of the animal kingdom? This rabies info is cool but imagine a squirrel doing a backflip. They’re nuts, no pun intended.

  16. This article was enlightening! I’m curious, how effective is the rabies vaccine for pets who might encounter squirrels? Could this be a teaching moment for students on wildlife diseases?

  17. While the information is broadly accurate, it’s critical to mention that rabies transmission, though rare, can still occur from small mammals. Always best to maintain a safe distance and not attempt to handle wildlife.

  18. I recently moved to an area where squirrels are everywhere, and wondering about rabies was keeping me up at night. Thanks for the info, it’s put my mind at ease.

  19. Oh sure, because the first thing I think when I see a squirrel is ‘Does it have rabies?’ Not how adorable it is or anything. Next, you’ll be warning us about rabid butterflies.

  20. Fascinating article! It’s crucial we understand these details to not only protect ourselves but also the squirrel populations from unnecessary fear and persecution.

  21. While I applaud the effort to demystify rabies in squirrels, I hope people remember that common sense and respect for wildlife are also crucial. Don’t try to pet the fluffy tail, folks.

  22. I got bitten by a squirrel once, thought it was the end for me. This article says it’s rare, but man, it didn’t feel rare when it happened. Not sure what to think now.

  23. so if a squirrel never shows signs of rabies, they safe to be around? always see them in my yard and get a bit scared for the kids.

  24. Absolutely loved the section on the signs of rabies in squirrels. As someone who’s out in nature a lot, it’s super important to know what to look out for. Keeps both me and the animals safe.

  25. While I appreciate the intent behind the article, I believe more emphasis should be placed on the importance of preventive measures and immediate treatment upon exposure. Rabies is nearly always fatal once symptoms appear, making early intervention crucial.

  26. If Bart the Squirrel starts offering free hugs instead of bites, maybe we can start a new public health campaign. ‘Hug, don’t bite!’ Thanks for the informative and fun read, Merideth!

    1. Haha, that’s one way to look at it! Anything to help people understand these animals better and reduce unnecessary fears.

    2. Love this idea, Tim! Who doesn’t need a good laugh these days? Plus, educating with humor is always a win in my book.

  27. I came for the rabies info but stayed for Bart the Squirrel’s snack attack tales. Who knew squirrels could be so relatable? Next, they’ll be asking for a side of fries.

  28. well, if squirrels are off the rabies worry list, guess it’s time to start worrying about the other million things out there. nature’s wild, y’all.

  29. Reading this before my next hike. Never really thought about squirrels and rabies. Always figured bats were the main concern. Good to stay informed, I guess.

    1. Absolutely, staying informed is key, especially when you’re out in nature a lot. Surprised to see squirrels on the list, but it’s always better to know.

    2. Never had a problem with squirrels, but I always keep my distance. No point in taking risks, right? Better safe than sorry.

  30. Rabies is one of those topics that gets a lot of myths tied to it. So, it’s refreshing to see an article that talks about it with clarity, especially concerning wildlife we frequently encounter. Cheers for the info!

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