One piece of advice that I always share with dog owners that I meet is that your dog is capable of getting into more trouble than you can imagine. Cats do it too but they have ‘nine lives to fall back on.
My dog has access to my backyard and from time to time he likes bringing in the occasional branch or stone. But just the other, while I was having my breakfast, my dog proudly stood before me with a dead mouse in its mouth.
After spitting out my breakfast and lecturing my dog, I got him in the car and drove straight to the vet. Thankfully, everything was fine.
Finding your dog with a dead mouse or animal in its mouth can happen often enough. Dogs love catching small critters due to their strong prey drive. Dogs are also drawn to carcasses as scavenging is part of their nature. There are some health implications that can arise from eating a dead animal.
In this article, we will be taking a closer look at why dogs exhibit such behaviors and the dangers it carries.
How Did My Dog End Up With A Dead Mouse?
Truth be told, most pet owners wouldn’t bat an eye if it was the cat that had a dead mouse in its mouth. That is what cats do best and had been tasked to do since the early days of domestication.
Our brains equate a cat chasing and eating mice as normal. Just like the Tom and Jerry cartoon.
When it comes to our dogs, it can be visually jarring to see our pooch with a dead animal in its mouth. But such behavior is a lot more natural for our dogs than we think.
Strong Prey Drive
All dog breeds have a prey drive due to their close evolution from wild wolves. This gives them the urge to stalk, chase, bite and grab smaller animals like birds, squirrels, rodents, etc. Some domestic dogs have no qualms about eating a few baby bunnies if they chance upon a rabbit’s nest.
Wolves are great hunters and are the apex predators in their habitat. Although our domesticated pooches aren’t as aggressive as wolves, they still retain some of that wild streak in them.
The prey drive intensity in dogs varies from breed to breed. Dogs that are normally bred to hunt or herd have very strong prey drives.
Having a prey drive makes a dog a dog but it can be problematic if your dog has the tendency to chase after anything that resembles prey.
Such behavior can even cause some dogs to chase after cars and dangerous creatures like snakes.
Our dogs these days lead pretty luxurious lives with all the creature comforts that we provide for them.
But let us take a look back at how our dog’s ancestors, the wolves, survived in the wild. Besides hunting for fresh meat, wolves are also capable of being scavengers to survive. They will eat almost anything that seems edible.
This can range to plant matter and even rotting animal carcasses. Wolves would rather feast on fresh meat but when food is scarce, they eat what they can to survive.
Your dog might have gotten a whiff of the dead mouse’s body and got interested. Such odors might seem repulsive to us humans but to dogs, it is a medium for carrying information that we can’t comprehend.
I have a friend that stays on a farm. She once told me that one of her dogs loves to munch on dead animals found on their premises and will bury the leftover. After a few days of fermentation, the dog will dig it up and have another go at it.
That seems a little too hardcore for a city dweller like me but apparently, her dog is in tip-top condition.
Different strokes for different folks.
Can My Dog Get Sick From Eating A Dead Mouse?
This is when things start to get a little more dicey.
Even though our dogs might be capable of consuming food that isn’t fresh, as a dog owner myself, I am not very enthusiastic about my dog eating a freshly caught mouse or dead mice that have been decomposing for days.
There are some health risks involved that can make our dogs sick.
When your dog eats a dead mouse, there is a risk of your dog contracting intestinal parasites from the carcass.
The more common types of intestinal parasites that your dog can get will be tapeworms and roundworms.
These worms can reside inside the body of small critters like birds and rodents and can continue to live on your dog after consuming the carcass.
These parasites will start to inhabit your dog’s intestines and feed off the nutrients that flow into the dog’s intestinal tract.
Symptoms of a parasitic infection are:
- White specks in poop
- Bloated stomach
- Weight loss
Puppies and young dogs are more at risk of dying from such parasites as the worms will rob the poor growing dog of its nutrients. Don’t be alarmed if you notice that your dog has bloody diarrhea. It can happen when your dog has worms in its digestive system.
This problem is caused by the Leptospira bacteria which can be found residing in soil and water globally.
Your dog is at risk of leptospirosis when it eats or drinks contaminated soil or water respectively. Exposure to infected wild animals and rodents is also another possible way of transmission.
Symptoms of leptospirosis are:
- Muscle soreness
- Kidney/Liver failure
Thankfully, leptospirosis can be treated with a course of antibiotics and medical care. There are also vaccines available that can protect your dog for up to 12 months.
There are many households that consider mice to be a pest and will set up mouse or rat poison in their gardens or homes to eliminate them.
When the mouse takes the bait and eats the poison, it will start to die from the toxicity. If your dog then comes along and eats the poisoned mouse, it can make your dog sick via secondary poisoning.
Rat or mouse poison, also known as rodenticide contains chemical compounds that are very toxic to dogs.
Rodenticide can cause internal bleeding, organ failure and even death in a smaller dog.
The common active ingredients in mouse poison are:
- Phosphide rodenticides
These ingredients work by affecting the victim’s organs or nervous system. And when accidentally ingested by your dog can do a lot of irreversible damage to your dog’s system if left untreated.
If you are still not convinced about the dangers of ingesting rodenticide, you can check out the story of Ziggy who almost died from not eating a poisoned mouse but only by biting the carcass in its mouth.
If your dog has eaten rodenticide, it can show the following symptoms:
- Bloody urine
- Lack of appetite
- Bleeding from gums
- Difficulty breathing
If your dog ate a poisoned mouse and is showing signs of rodenticide toxicity, you need to take your dog to the vet immediately.
It will help your vet a lot to administer the right treatment to your dog if you knew the type of poison or brand name of the poison.
I understand that such information is not always available but you might be able to get some clues by asking your neighbors or by looking around the area for rodent traps.
How Do I Protect My Dog?
Although it might not be possible to watch your dog 24/7, there are a couple of things that you can do to protect your dog.
Vaccination And Deworming
There are some vaccinations that will be more important for your dog depending on what diseases are more precedent in your area. this can help protect your dog will contracting any diseases from eating a dead animal.
Regular deworming is also very important for dogs as they have a higher risk of coming into contact with contamination while playing outdoors.
It might be necessary to give your dog deworming medication if it is clean but you need to know how to look out for the signs when it does happen.
Train Your Dog Well
Training my dog to “Leave it” or “Drop it” has been a lifesaver for me on so many occasions. I’ve lost count of the number of weird and gross stuff that my dog would have eaten in a heartbeat if I didn’t get him to leave it.
This is something that needs to be reinforced all the time to make sure that your dog will still listen to you when being hyped up.
How Do You Clean A Dog’s Mouth After Eating A Dead Animal?
If your dog has eaten something that it shouldn’t have, like a dead animal, don’t start cleaning your dog’s mouth with household items that can do more harm than good.
Brushing your dog’s teeth and gums can help freshen its breath. But only use dog-safe toothpaste as our toothpaste contains the chemical compound Xylitol which is very toxic to dogs.
There are also some dog-friendly mouthwash that you can get from that pet store that helps to clean and disinfect your dog’s mouth.
Your dog’s saliva contains enzymes that are capable of killing off the bacteria in stale or spoiled food. So you don’t have to go overboard with the cleaning.
Can My Dog Get Rabies From Eating A Dead Mouse?
According to the CDC, small rodents like wild mice, squirrels, rats, etc are almost never found to have any rabies in them.
This means that the probability of your dog contracting rabies from eating a dead mouse is almost zero. That being said, it is still important for your to get your dog vaccinated against rabies just to be safe.