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Dog, raccoon hunter
November 24, 2012 6:35 PM   Subscribe

Our dog killed a raccoon last night. What (if anything) should we be worried about?

Our dog was whining and agitated at the back door last night. She likes to chase squirrels and other small animals, and I figured from her behavior that there was some animal in the back yard. But she's not too fast, it was late, and she needed to go out before bedtime, so (and yes, I realize this was really stupid) I let her out.

She raced out the door, followed about three seconds later by an explosion of hissing and scrabbling and the muffled growling of a dog with her mouth around something. I raced to grab a flashlight (again, something I later kicked myself for not having thought of beforehand), which revealed the dog pinning a huge raccoon to the ground, with her jaws around its throat.

We didn't really know what to do. My wife got a shovel that I might use to pry them apart, but the dog wouldn't budge and the raccoon was thrashing furiously. And by this point (probably 3-4 minutes after the start) it seemed clear the fight would be over soon -- the dog had started picking up the raccoon and shaking it like a rag doll. So I took the shovel and hit the raccoon in the head until it stopped moving, and I could pull the dog off.

Our first concern is for the dog herself. She was plenty bloody, but after wiping her down we found only a few cuts. She saw the vet today and got antibiotics, but on the whole the vet seemed oddly sanguine. We live in Seattle, which supposedly doesn't have an issue with rabies in raccoons, and she had her rabies shots 2 years ago when we adopted her, but I still feel like this should be a bigger deal. Is this really something we shouldn't worry too much about?

Then there is our own risk. We didn't touch the raccoon (except with nitrile gloves this morning to wrangle the body into trash bags) but we did get its blood (and presumably saliva, which I guess is more dangerous) on us when cleaning the dog. We don't have any obvious cuts on our hands, but I keep thinking about how people supposedly have small cuts on their hands and fingers all the time. Again, I'm hoping someone can contribute some advice/anecdotes on this.

(Part of the problem here, I think, is distributed responsibility. Animal control said they pick up dead animals but don't do testing. The vet said they could give antibiotics but don't really deal with disease transmission. The state fish and wildlife department apparently does look at disease vectors but they're closed for the weekend and haven't responded to our voicemail. It's left us feeling like we could easily miss some vital bit of information because we didn't talk to the right people.)

Finally, I'm wondering what this might mean for the dog psychologically. Around people she's a total marshmallow -- in fact, earlier in the day we had a bunch of people over, including a small toddler, and the worst thing she did was snout her way between two chairs to give sad beggy eyes to someone with a plate of food. But she does have an issue with dog/animal aggression -- we've had to get between her and other dogs at the dog park a few times, although she's never done more than snap and growl and has always been easy to divert -- and seeing her in attack mode was sobering: she's a 95 pound rottie mix, the raccoon was at least 20 pounds (it barely fit into a 13 gallon garbage bag), and the vet was "impressed" that she took it down with just a few scratches. It's really scary to think of her turning that aggression on a person. Is there such a thing as "tasting blood" that can change a dog's temperament after an incident like this?
posted by bjrubble to Pets & Animals (26 answers total)
 
I don't believe anything changes in the dogs instincts or persona after something like this. I lived with an Australian Shepard that used to get his share of groundhogs every year, but would baby a small kitten.

It's the way of the wilderbeasts my friend says.
posted by neversummer at 6:40 PM on November 24, 2012


I'm sorry.... what exactly are you worried about?
posted by Doohickie at 6:48 PM on November 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


My dog, who I've raised since she was a pup, is 40 lb, 7 year old and is some sort of Shiba inu mix. She has killed mice, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, possums, rats and woodchucks. Probably at least 50 animals. She's been nothing but completely sweet to humans of every size and when she encounters aggressive dogs, she'll actively avoid them at the first sign of conflict. She also LOVES cats. My dog is not your dog, but I wouldn't worry too much about yours turning into a killing machine.
posted by youthenrage at 6:51 PM on November 24, 2012


I'm sorry.... what exactly are you worried about?

1. Dog catching something
2. Us catching something
3. Dog behaving more aggressively in the future
posted by bjrubble at 6:52 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


If your dog has its rabies shots and suffered no injuries, then nothing. Well, fleas, and parasites, but nothing regular use of Advantage won't take care of.

As for the old BS about a dog getting the "taste of blood" and turning vicious - Don't worry about it. My childhood best-friend, a lab-mix, killed hundreds of rabbits, and would let me take the food right out out of his mouth.
posted by pla at 6:55 PM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Our four goldens are the sweetest animals you've ever met. They've killed chipmunks, squirrels, a raccoon, bunnies, mice, and birds. They've also gone several rounds with a porcupine, mud turtle, and a skunk. Still sweet as pie with people and other domesticated animals. They just love the chase. Their dream in life is to catch a deer, but I don't see that happening thank goodness!
posted by cecic at 6:57 PM on November 24, 2012


Expect your pup to be exhausted for a couple days. For a dog that never, or rarely, kills things it's a physical and emotional drain.
It seems like you don't have too much to worry about; I've seen raccoons put a lot of holes and tears in dogs. Just watch his wounds for infection. And if you don't have any wounds I wouldn't worry about that for yourselves. For reference, I have been thouroughky chewed on by a raccoon, and aside from being very painful (they have teeth needles dipped in lemon juice) for a few days, nothing bad happened.
In the future, don't try to break up a fight between a dog and a raccoon. Your hands can very easily get in the way of even the friendliest dog's jaws and he'll take a chunk out of you without realizing it. And the raccoon will take chunks out of you because it's afraid and injured. If your dog is down and the raccoon is going at him then you could maybe use the shovel like a golf club to get the raccoon away, but if it's in your dog's mouth then trust that your dog will finish the job he started.
posted by gally99 at 6:59 PM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


My (trained hunting) dogs have killed more than a dozen rabbits and many squirrels in the backyard just this year alone.

Don't sweat it. Your dog is still the same apex predator you slept comfortably besides before she knew the taste of blood.

The things you need to be concerned about are fleas/ticks, and rabies or other bloodborne diseases. As a rule, rabies is pretty rare in America and unless you had some reason to believe the coon was rabid they probably won't bother to test. Besides, your dog has been vaccinated, right ?

The fleas/ticks thing is actually the greater concern. It's a bit late now, but go over the dog very carefully and look for signs of tick or flea infestation. You'll know in a few days or a week if they have flea infestation going on that you'll need to treat. That said, I bet the vet would have caught it already. Still, it happens.

In the future, yeah, you need to keep the dogs from wildlife. That said - I know my dogs are trained killers and I look each and every time. But goddamned if those idiot squirrels just can't stay out of the yard.

It's part of what they do - they defend and find food. That is the whole reason we spent 50,000 years domesticating them. She's a good dog. She'll be fine.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:00 PM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


From the CDC website:

The rabies virus is transmitted through saliva or brain/nervous system tissue. You can only get rabies by coming in contact with these specific bodily excretions and tissues.

Nonbite exposures from terrestrial animals rarely cause rabies. However, occasional reports of rabies transmission by nonbite exposures suggest that such exposures should be evaluated for possible postexposure prophylaxis administration.

Any animal bitten or scratched by either a wild, carnivorous mammal or a bat that is not available for testing should be regarded as having been exposed to rabies.

The number of rabies-related human deaths in the United States has declined from more than 100 annually at the turn of the century to one or two per year in the 1990's. Modern day prophylaxis has proven nearly 100% successful.


Additionally, raccoon outbreaks pretty much only occur on the east coast of the US.

This shows no instances of rabid raccoons in Washington in 2010.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:07 PM on November 24, 2012


For a dog that never, or rarely, kills things it's a physical and emotional drain.

It really does not help to anthropomorphize the issue, but raccoons run rampant all over Seattle, and there hasn't ever been a documented case of rabies in raccoons in Washington State. There are other diseases to worry about which spread through urine and feces, not blood, so if your vet is all "meh" then your dog is, in all likelihood, okay. You may want to discuss your own health issues with your primary care doctor.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:08 PM on November 24, 2012


Regarding rabies, medical providers usually try to figure out whether an attack was provoked or unprovoked. An unprovoked attack by an animal (or unusual behavior in an animal) is concerning for rabies. For example, if a raccoon is sitting outside your door in broad daylight, that's unusual and would be worrisome, especially if it acted aggressively and attacked your dog.

In this case, it sounds like the raccoon was minding its own noctural business, as raccoons tend to do, and your dog attacked it. We know your dog isn't rabid, and the raccoon (as far as we know) was not exhibiting any suspicious behavior and was not the aggressor here. That plus the low odds of any given raccoon having rabies should be reassuring, plus, raccoons are generally reservoirs for rabies in the eastern USA (not sure where you are?).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:19 PM on November 24, 2012


I have seen my dog both rip the spine out of a newborn lamb and gently lick pudding off a delighted toddler's face, the second within 1 day of the first. Prey drive is instinctive and the presence of a strong one does not mean your dog will be inappropriately aggressive.
posted by elizardbits at 7:19 PM on November 24, 2012


Do stay on top of the rabies vaccines, knowing that your have a vermin huntin' hound. Quarantining a dog is NOT FUN.
posted by fshgrl at 7:40 PM on November 24, 2012


Thanks everyone -- really comforting to hear people confirm an optimistic assessment. I figured I was probably worrying too much; it just seemed like we hadn't gotten a really concrete answer from anyone.

Expect your pup to be exhausted for a couple days. For a dog that never, or rarely, kills things it's a physical and emotional drain.

Yep, that's exactly how she seems today. Although the pain meds are probably helping her zonk out a bit.
posted by bjrubble at 7:47 PM on November 24, 2012


In this case, it sounds like the raccoon was minding its own noctural business, as raccoons tend to do, and your dog attacked it. We know your dog isn't rabid, and the raccoon (as far as we know) was not exhibiting any suspicious behavior and was not the aggressor here.

Yeah, this happening at night seemed like a "good" sign as far as rabies goes, although I was a bit worried that the raccoon didn't run off -- I feel like it must have known that there was a dog behind the door. But that might be just me being mad at the raccoon -- stupid animal, why didn't you have the sense to run away?
posted by bjrubble at 7:55 PM on November 24, 2012


Finally, I'm wondering what this might mean for the dog psychologically...It's really scary to think of her turning that aggression on a person. Is there such a thing as "tasting blood" that can change a dog's temperament after an incident like this?

While there is no evidence that animals develop a "taste for blood" as is sometimes portrayed in fiction, what dog owners often forget is that there is no such thing as a safe dog. People love to say things like, "my rottweiler once mauled three bears and then fed my baby applesauce while she stepped on his tail", but almost every story about a dog attack starts with the owner explaining how gentle "Lucky" was.

Your dog might live her whole life never showing any aggression towards a human being, but you only need to be wrong about this once for something potentially tragic to happen. A good dog owner should always be aware that every dog, no matter how loveable, has the potential to attack and bite. Ten thousand years of domestication cannot erase +30 million years of evolution. Pogo Fuzzybutt's comment hit the mark on that score.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:02 PM on November 24, 2012


The people in those stories are usually lying so they don't get blamed though Tanizaki. Or they're idiots. Every dog bite I've ever seen was easy to predict if you knew the dog.
posted by fshgrl at 8:21 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since you seem to find the chorus helpful: my sister's dog has killed numerous rabbits over the years and remains about as dangerous and aggressive as she looks. Your dog will be fine, although I'm sure it wasn't fun for you.
posted by kavasa at 8:21 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


fshgrl : The people in those stories are usually lying so they don't get blamed though Tanizaki. Or they're idiots. Every dog bite I've ever seen was easy to predict if you knew the dog.

This. At the risk of going a bit OT, I've owned (and had to put down) a "bad" dog - By which I very much do not mean one merely with a few bad behaviors that just needed a bit of training. And you can just tell, right from late-puppyhood on, that someday it'll lose its shit and do some real damage.

Getting a bite of a raccoon won't push a good dog over the edge. They live for hunting - That has nothing to do with their behavior at home with their "pack".
posted by pla at 8:43 PM on November 24, 2012


A lot of these anecdotes are reassuring but I think you are smart to be on the lookout for changes in behavior. That X other pets killed wild animals and didn't ever harm anything but wild animals isn't that ideal, especially since you end up having to think about disease transmission every time it happens.

Which isn't to say you should do anything different at this point. It sounds like you're doing everything you need to do for your dog (and to take care of the raccoon's remains safely/responsibly). I second the suggestion to talk to a doctor of you want to set your minds at ease.
posted by juliplease at 9:15 PM on November 24, 2012


Scanned the post and answers (so sorry if I missed it) but is your dog current on the distemper vaccine? The things I would worry about if my dog tangled with a raccoon would be distemper and Baylisascaris procyonis.
posted by bolognius maximus at 10:13 PM on November 24, 2012


3. Dog behaving more aggressively in the future

Dogs are notoriously bad at generalizing. They think people of colors and shapes they haven't seen before aren't people.

Your dog's attitude towards one kind of animal here does not necessarily extend to any other kind, is what I'm saying. And it's had exactly one event (the fight the other night) to reinforce its behavior.

Has your dog learned lots of things in one training session? If not, I suspect your's behavior post fight has changed about 0%
posted by zippy at 1:04 AM on November 25, 2012


I think you are right to be concerned about behavior changes, not because of a new taste for killing, but because your dog has already exhibited some aggression issues. Having a knock-down drag-out fight-to-the-death with an interloper could put it on edge for some time to come. If you've already worked with a behaviorist on managing the aggression issues, it is worth reengaging; if you haven't before, this might be a good time to start.

Oh, and for what it is worth, Seattle raccoons are murderous thugs. I've known more than one person who has had issues with them attacking pets. I've had a few in my back yard that were reluctant to leave, even when poked by 8' bamboo poles. More recently, a pair of young raccoons was leaning towards fighting my dog rather than taking any or many escape routes out of our yard until we showed up and shifted the odds. I'm glad the beast is dead and your dog isn't much the worse for wear.
posted by Good Brain at 1:56 AM on November 25, 2012


My rottie mix had a little dog aggression that got worse after he got in a throwdown with his "cousin," a mini dachshund. (The dachshund was fine, but had to have some stitches.) Subsequently his dog-aggression intensified, so we had to keep him on leash and away from other dogs.

He was never person-aggressive, except for occasional growling at really messed up homeless guys who wanted to pet him on the street. I wouldn't worry.
posted by miss tea at 3:20 AM on November 25, 2012


1. Dog catching something
2. Us catching something
3. Dog behaving more aggressively in the future


1. The dog is vaccinated.
2. You weren't exposed to anything you're not exposed to every day; it's just that you realized you were exposed. Risk is very minimal (or else the vet would have been more concerned).
3. My dogs haven't changed their behavior after an assortment of bird, possum & squirrel kills.
posted by Doohickie at 5:45 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


We didn't really know what to do. My wife got a shovel that I might use to pry them apart, but the dog wouldn't budge and the raccoon was thrashing furiously. And by this point (probably 3-4 minutes after the start) it seemed clear the fight would be over soon -- the dog had started picking up the raccoon and shaking it like a rag doll. So I took the shovel and hit the raccoon in the head until it stopped moving, and I could pull the dog off.

For future reference a good spray with the garden hose is how you get a dog to separate from things it is attached to.
posted by srboisvert at 10:46 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


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