Canada is home to various species of flying, tree, and ground squirrels such as the black squirrel and the gray squirrel. While ground squirrels reside in underground burrows, the flying and tree species live in trees and forests. The bad news, however, is that these rodents, much like humans, are susceptible to common diseases, some of which can cross over to us. Below, we take a look at 3 such diseases carried by squirrels as follows:
1. Squirrel fibroma or squirrel pox
This is a common viral disease that affects squirrels. It is spread through insect bites such as those from mosquitoes and results in the appearance of skin tumours on the body. Typically, these tumours do not cause any problems to the squirrel unless secondary skin infections arise. Occasionally, tumours may also spread to the lymph nodes, lungs, kidney, or liver.
2. Bubonic plague
Caused by the Yersinia pestis bacterium, bubonic plague is prevalent in ground squirrels. This is because squirrels, like other rodents, are common bacteria reservoirs. And while some infected squirrels may experience a petechial rash, fever, weakness, and gangrene, others may show no symptoms at all. Plague can then spread to humans through fleas that have fed on the squirrel’s blood or through a squirrel bite. Whenever plague-infected squirrels are discovered in campgrounds or parks, officials should immediately close the parks and have the area treated for fleas. Antibiotics could also come in handy for any humans who may have contracted the disease from squirrels.
Another of the common diseases that are carried by squirrels, leptospirosis can lead to liver and kidney failure even though the affected squirrel may show no symptoms whatsoever. Therefore, to avoid contracting this disease, do not attempt to handle or feed squirrels especially when they appear unwell. Additionally, use insect repellants in areas where tick or flea bites may occur.
Do squirrels carry Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial disease that is spread by ticks. Many mammals carry Lyme disease, including deer, chipmunks, and squirrels.
Squirrels naturally carry many different types of bacteria, including that which causes Lyme disease. Ticks pick up the bacteria when they feed on the squirrel’s blood. Once the tick has finished feeding, it will drop off the host animal and climb up into long grass or dense brush to wait for its next meal to walk past. That could be a wild animal, your dog, or you. The tick latches onto its next host, and the disease is spread to other animals through the tick’s bite.
Humans can also get Lyme disease from the bite of an infected tick, although the tick must stay attached for at least 24 hours to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. It’s typically the juvenile ticks that transmit Lyme disease to humans. These “nymphs,” as immature ticks are known, are much smaller than adults, making them much harder to spot.
Symptoms of Lyme disease in people usually appear about one to two weeks following the initial infection. A small red lump may appear at the site of the original tick bite. The lump may spread into a large, circular rash. Other signs include:
- Stiff neck
- Aches and pains
The second stage of Lyme disease doesn’t occur until several weeks or even months later and causes pain in the joints, typically the knee. If not treated, Lyme disease can remain in the body for years, eventually spreading to the heart or brain.
Is a squirrel bite dangerous?
Squirrels have four incisor teeth that they use for nibbling their food. Because the incisors are continuously growing, squirrels need to wear the teeth down so that they don’t become overgrown. Consequently, the squirrel’s incisor teeth are extremely sharp.
The majority of healthy squirrels would not seek a confrontation with a human, but they can be extremely aggressive if cornered or threatened. A squirrel bite is painful and will most likely draw blood. Squirrels’ mouths are full of bacteria, and a bite that breaks your skin could become infected.
Squirrels can carry rabies, although most small rodents that contract rabies die from the virus before they have the chance to pass it on. However, there is still a small chance that a squirrel could have rabies, and for that reason, you should always consult your doctor right away if you are bitten.
DO NOT approach a squirrel that appears weak or is foaming at the mouth, as those are both symptoms of rabies. Animals with rabies can be unusually aggressive, and you may be attacked. If you are bitten by a squirrel, and you begin to suffer from any of the following symptoms, consult a physician immediately:
- Muscle aches and pains
If you have squirrels in your attic, roof space, garage, or any other areas of your property where the creatures are not welcome, contact a local wildlife pest removal firm right away. A professional will have the necessary experience and equipment to deal with problem squirrels for you safely.
Can you get sick from a squirrel scratch?
Although they might look cute, squirrels are wild animals and should not be approached. All wild animals are easily alarmed, and they will fight off a perceived threat by scratching and biting. Although a healthy adult squirrel would not ordinarily approach you, baby squirrels are often not as wary of people as adults are and sometimes run right up your legs with no fear at all!
Several diseases can be transmitted by a squirrel scratch, including bacterial infections, tetanus, and even rabies.
Squirrels carry bacteria on their paws. For example, if you imagine a squirrel running around in your attic, picking up traces of rodent urine, or treading on feces, you can see how easily it could pick up nasty bacteria. If a squirrel scratches you and breaks your skin, that bacteria could easily enter your bloodstream and cause an infection.
For example, leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that is transmitted when infected animal urine enters an open wound, such as a scratch. Symptoms include rashes, headaches, fever, and vomiting. If leptospirosis is not treated promptly and the disease takes hold, it can cause meningitis or kidney failure.
If you have problem squirrels in your attic or garage, do not attempt to catch or trap the animals. Contact a local wildlife pest removal contractor to deal with the problem for you.
Do squirrels carry diseases harmful to dogs?
If you have squirrels living around your yard, there may be times when your dog decides to chase them. Most of the time, squirrels are too quick and agile for your dog to catch them. However, once in a while, your dog might get lucky and actually grab the squirrel.
Usually, that’s not a problem. However, sometimes the dead squirrel could be carrying parasites or diseases that might also affect your dog.
Ticks and fleas are more than just an itchy nuisance for your dog. They can also carry some very nasty infectious diseases. Although not all squirrels have disease-carrying fleas, there are a few potential dangers that all dog owners should be aware of, including:
Also, fleas can carry tapeworms, which may be passed onto humans, as well as to your dog.
Even if your dog doesn’t manage to grab a squirrel, he could still be infected with leptospirosis and salmonella bacteria that are found in squirrel feces and urine. So, if your dog likes to snuffle around places that squirrels are known to frequent, he could be at risk. The good news is that you can have your dog vaccinated against leptospirosis, which will protect him from this dangerous disease.
It’s also a good idea to have your dog treated with monthly flea and tick medication that’s available from your vet. Then, if the worst should happen and your dog picks up a parasite after a close encounter with a squirrel, your pet won’t finish up with an infestation.
Finally, don’t rely on Fido to chase pesky squirrels off your property. Always hire an experienced local wildlife pest removal firm to solve the problem and get rid of the squirrels from your property so that there’s no risk to your dog or to you.
Are squirrels harmful to humans?
Squirrels are not usually harmful to humans, although they can be a nuisance, causing extensive damage to your home by entering the attic or roof space of your home and outbuildings.
Squirrels can be incredibly destructive, and they are confirmed chewers, gnawing on anything hard enough to help wear away their continuously growing incisor teeth. Inside your home, a squirrel will make short work of any woodwork within its reach, including attic beams, shingles, floorboards, and even window frames.
In your attic or garage, squirrels will chew their way through electrical wires and water pipes, presenting a dangerous fire hazard and potentially leaving your home vulnerable to water damage.
When a mother squirrel invades your attic, she does so to raise her family in a dark, quiet, sheltered spot. To build a cozy nest for her youngsters, the squirrel will tear up your insulation. To add insult to injury, the squirrel family will scatter feces and urine all around your attic and contaminate uncovered coldwater tanks with their droppings and urine.
Homeowners report sleep issues because of the noise that squirrels make at night while they are scurrying around in your attic. As squirrels are typically at their most active in the hours before sunrise, you’re most likely to be disturbed four or five hours before daybreak.
Although squirrels are shy of people, a sick, very young, or injured squirrel could come into contact with you. Squirrels can be highly aggressive when they feel threatened or cornered, and they will deliver a nasty bite if you try to handle them. Like most wild animals, including feral cats, squirrels carry a variety of diseases that can affect humans, including rabies.
What do you do if a squirrel bites you?
First of all, it’s highly unlikely that a squirrel will consciously set out to attack a human. Squirrels, like most wild animals, will seek to avoid coming into conflict with people wherever possible. However, if a squirrel feels threatened or is cornered, it may bite you to defend itself or out of fear.
So, the best course of action is not to put yourself in a position where you could get bitten by a squirrel. For example, never try to catch a squirrel in your attic, either by hand or with a trap.
However, if the worst should happen and a squirrel bites you, here’s what you should do:
- If the bite is bleeding heavily, use a clean towel or a piece of gauze to apply pressure on the wound until the bleeding stops.
- When the bleeding has stopped, clean the bite thoroughly with soap and water, and then hold it under running water to flush away any bacteria that may have entered the wound.
- When the wound is clean, dry it carefully and dress the bite with antibiotic ointment. Cover the wound with a clean piece of gauze or bandage.
Squirrels can carry tetanus, rabies, and other dangerous diseases, and any bite injury is prone to infection, so always see your doctor right away. You may need antibiotics and a course of rabies shots in some cases.
You must attend your nearest ER or Urgent Care Clinic:
- If the bite is on your face, close to a joint, or on your foot
- If the bite does not stop bleeding following 10 minutes of continuous pressure
- If the wound is very deep or extensive
- If the bite quickly becomes very swollen, painful, or hot
- If you have a weak immune system or a medical condition that could make a bacterial infection more severe
- If you have not had a tetanus shot in the last five years
In Ontario, all wildlife is protected, and it’s illegal to kill or cause stress to a wild creature. Also, it’s not permitted to transport a wild animal for more than one kilometre.
To get rid of squirrels from your home, always hire a professional wildlife disposal contractor to do the work. Professionals are trained to handle wild animals correctly and safely, and they have the correct permits that are required to remove the creatures from your property without risk to you and your family.
We provide squirrel removal services in Toronto, Scarborough, Markham, Ajax, Whitby, Pickering, and Oshawa