Can Mice Hurt My Dog?

Mice and rats often live in close proximity to our homes and pets. Although these rodents may seem harmless, they can potentially pose health risks to our canine companions. Mice carry and spread harmful diseases that dogs can become infected with through direct contact or environmental contamination.

When mice interact with a dog, either by being caught and consumed or just coming into close proximity and exchanging germs, there is a risk of disease transmission. Therefore, it’s important for pet owners to understand the potential dangers mice can present and how to protect dogs from any illnesses rodents may carry.

This article explores the most common health conditions dogs can acquire from mice exposure, how to recognize symptoms, get a diagnosis, seek treatment, and prevent contact or contamination in the first place. By learning about the risks mice can create for dog health and how to mitigate them, pet owners can better safeguard their beloved pets.

Diseases Mice Can Carry

Mice can carry and transmit several concerning diseases to dogs, including:

Hantavirus

Hantavirus is a rare but potentially fatal viral disease typically spread by rodents through their urine, droppings, or saliva. According to the CDC, rodents are the primary reservoir of hantaviruses which can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in humans. Though very rare, there have been cases of dogs contracting hantavirus after likely ingesting infected rodent droppings or urine. Symptoms may include fever, lethargy, coughing, nosebleeds and breathing difficulties. There is no vaccine or cure, so treatment focuses on supportive care.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria transmitted by ticks. According to the CDC, mice are very efficient at harboring and transferring Lyme-infected ticks. If a tick infected with Lyme bites a dog, it can lead to fever, lameness, swelling, and potentially kidney disease in canines if untreated. Diagnosis is made through a blood test and dogs are treated with antibiotics like doxycycline.

Salmonella

Salmonella bacteria live in the intestinal tracts of mice and shed in their feces. Dogs can become infected by ingesting contaminated food or water. It often causes vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and lethargy in canines. Antibiotics and fluids are used to treat salmonellosis in dogs.

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is caused by spiral-shaped bacteria called Leptospira. Mice and rats are common carriers. The bacteria spreads through their urine which can contaminate soil, food, or water that a dog consumes. According to the NYC Department of Health, Leptospira infects dogs’ kidneys and causes fever, vomiting, lethargy, dehydration, and jaundice. It is treated with antibiotics like penicillin or doxycycline.

How Dogs Get Exposed

There are a few main ways dogs can get exposed to diseases from mice:

Eating Mice: If a dog catches and eats a mouse, they can ingest any diseases the rodent may be carrying. According to the NYC Department of Health, rodents are known carriers of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that can infect dogs who eat infected mice [1].

Mouse Bites: Getting bitten by an infected mouse can directly transmit diseases to a dog. Leptospirosis bacteria can enter the body through broken skin and mucous membranes, so a bite could potentially expose a dog to the disease [2].

Contact with Droppings/Urine: Coming into contact with mouse droppings or urine can put dogs at risk of contracting diseases. According to WagWalking, mice droppings and urine may contain organisms that cause leptospirosis in dogs [3]. Ingesting contaminated water or food could expose them.

Symptoms in Dogs

Dogs infected with diseases carried by mice may show a variety of symptoms. Some of the most common include:

Fever – Elevated body temperature is a common sign of infection. According to the NYC Department of Health, fever can last for weeks in dogs with leptospirosis [1].

Lethargy – Infected dogs often appear tired and lack energy. They may be reluctant to exercise or play.

Vomiting – Throwing up is a common symptom of many illnesses in dogs. It can indicate a gastrointestinal problem or a systemic infection.

Diarrhea – Loose stools or diarrhea can result from irritation and inflammation in the intestines. Certain diseases also target the digestive system.

Jaundice – Yellowing of the skin, gums, and whites of the eyes (jaundice) sometimes occurs with liver inflammation or failure to excrete bile properly.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing mice-borne diseases like leptospirosis in dogs begins with a thorough physical exam by the veterinarian. They will check for symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and jaundice. Bloodwork will likely be run to check organ function and look for abnormalities. The blood can also be used for antibody testing to check for the presence of leptospirosis bacteria. According to the NYC Department of Health, antibody testing is an important diagnostic tool for leptospirosis in dogs (https://www.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/zoo/lepto-owners.pdf).

Imaging such as x-rays or ultrasound may be used to evaluate the dog’s abdominal organs like the liver and kidneys, which can be damaged by leptospirosis. Overall, diagnosis involves a combination of a physical exam, lab testing, and imaging to determine if the dog has a disease like leptospirosis contracted from mice.

Treatment

Treatment for leptospirosis in dogs focuses on providing supportive care, administering IV fluids, antibiotics, and antipyretics. Vets will start by stabilizing dogs and correcting dehydration or electrolyte abnormalities through the administration of IV fluids. Fluid therapy helps maintain blood pressure and kidney function.

Antibiotics, usually doxycycline or penicillin, are given for 7-14 days to fight the leptospirosis bacteria. These medications are most effective when started early in the course of the disease, before irreversible organ damage occurs.

Antipyretics like acetaminophen may be given to bring down high fevers. Additional medications can treat vomiting, diarrhea, pain, inflammation, and other symptoms. With aggressive supportive care and antibiotics, many dogs make a full recovery from leptospirosis if treated promptly.

Prevention

The most effective way to prevent diseases in dogs that are caused by mice is through rodent control. According to the CDC, “The best way to prevent a rodent infestation and contact with rodents is to remove food sources, water, and items that provide shelter for rodents.”

Vaccinating dogs against certain diseases like leptospirosis can also help prevent infection. The CDC states “To help prevent Leptospirosis infection, keep rodent problems (rats, mice, or other animal pests) under control. Rodents can carry and spread the bacteria that causes leptospirosis.”

It’s also important to avoid contact with rodent droppings which can contain bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The NYC Department of Health recommends cleaning up any rodent droppings with gloves and disinfectant to prevent exposure.

When to See a Vet

It’s important to get your dog to the vet if you suspect it has ingested rodent poison or has been exposed in other ways. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, you should take your dog to the vet immediately if you know or suspect it has consumed rodent bait.

Signs that your dog may have been exposed to rodent poison include lethargy, loss of appetite, pale gums, bruising, nosebleeds, blood in the urine or stool, and excessive bleeding from minor wounds. These symptoms may not present until 1-3 days after ingestion.

You should also take your dog to the vet for preventative care. Your vet can diagnose rodenticide poisoning through blood tests and provide critical medical care to counteract its effects. They may induce vomiting, administer vitamin K1 therapy, give blood transfusions, and provide other supportive care. Early treatment greatly improves prognosis.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Don’t hesitate to contact your vet if you have any suspicion about rodenticide exposure, as prompt treatment is vital. Your vet can also advise you on rodent control methods that are safe for your pets.

Prognosis

With prompt veterinary treatment, most dogs infected by diseases carried by mice can make a full recovery. However, some illnesses like hantavirus can potentially be fatal if not caught and addressed quickly.

According to research, diseases like leptospirosis have a good prognosis if treated early on with antibiotics and supportive care like IV fluids. Most dogs will recover fully with this treatment (cite: https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/conditions/leptospirosis-in-dogs).

However, more severe cases of leptospirosis that cause kidney or liver failure can have a guarded prognosis. Intensive veterinary care may be needed, and some dogs may not recover fully.

Hantavirus is one of the more serious diseases dogs can contract from mice. According to sources, hantavirus has a mortality rate around 50% even with intensive treatment (cite: https://wagwalking.com/wellness/can-dogs-get-hantavirus). So early veterinary care is critical.

With prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment, most illnesses dogs can get from mice have a positive prognosis. But pet owners need to watch for symptoms and seek veterinary care quickly, as some diseases can be fatal if left untreated.

Conclusion

Mice can transmit dangerous diseases like hantavirus and leptospirosis to dogs if proper precautions are not taken. However, the risk of disease transmission can be significantly reduced by keeping your home and yard free of mice, avoiding areas contaminated with mouse droppings and urine, getting dogs routinely vaccinated, and seeing a vet quickly if symptoms develop. While exposure to mice can never be fully prevented, educated and vigilant dog owners can greatly minimize the chances of their dog contracting a serious mouse-borne illness. With proper prevention and early treatment, most dogs fully recover to live a happy, normal life.

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