Oh, what to do for squirrel scratches! Squirrels love acorns. They also can be temperamental and possessive of their nuts. Some squirrels are very territorial and it is not uncommon to find a squirrel with several scratch marks on its body. So what should you do if your critter ends up with some scratches?
Before we share some tips, let’s start with answering a common question:
What happens if a squirrel scratches you?
Squirrels are cute, fuzzy creatures that scamper around parks, backyards and urban settings. You see them every day, but few people realize just how dangerous they can be. The obvious effect of a squirrel scratches is:
Wounds from squirrels can be like those from cats, dogs, and other animals. The saliva of the animal may carry bacteria that can cause infection. In addition, the physical scratch itself can damage skin and tissues.
The more a person is scratched or bitten, the higher the risk of infection. If a small scratch is treated right away with soap and water, it should heal on its own with no problems. A deeper wound may need medical attention to prevent infection.
Even if a wound doesn’t become infected, it can still take some time to heal. The healing time will depend on where and how deep the wound is.
Squirrels may carry many diseases that can be passed on to humans (and pets) through bites and scratches. Here are some of the most common squirrel-borne diseases:
Many species of animals — including squirrels carry this bacterial infection — but they usually transfer it to humans via infected ticks or deer flies. The symptoms are like those of the flu and can include swollen glands, fever, chills, headaches and a sore throat. If you suspect you have Tularemia, see a doctor as soon as possible so he/she can prescribe you with antibiotics. Without treatment, this disease can lead to pneumonia and even death.
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by bacteria that can be found in the urine of infected animals. Squirrels carry this disease in its milder form, which causes flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills; however, the bacteria can also cause kidney failure if left untreated. A prescription for antibiotics should help treat leptospirosis quickly.
Rabies is a deadly virus that can be transmitted from infected animals to humans through saliva or other bodily fluids. If you suspect that a squirrel has rabies, contact your doctor immediately; rabies is fatal if left untreated.
Tetanus is an infection caused by a bacterial toxin that enters the body through open wounds, and it causes muscle spasms and seizures. Tetanus shots are commonly administered during childhood, but booster shots may be necessary, depending on the person’s medical history.
Salmonellosis is an infection caused by Salmonella bacteria, which may exist in squirrel feces or body fluids. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If you suspect you have salmonellosis, contact your health care provider as soon as possible.
Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks that have fed on squirrels, as well as other animals like mice and deer. Squirrels do not transmit Lyme disease themselves — the only way to get it is if you’re bitten by a tick infected with Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which are carried by the animals but not transmitted directly by bites or scratches.
What to do if you are scratched by a squirrel?
Squirrels have strong, sharp claws they use to climb and run. If you try to grab a squirrel, they may scratch you as a natural defense mechanism.
Squirrels are not aggressive. They may, however, bite if they feel threatened or are protecting their young. If a squirrel has bitten or scratched you, seek medical treatment immediately.
Here are other things to do to do if you’re scratched by a squirrel:
1. If the squirrel has scratch marks on its body that may show it has rabies, don’t touch it. Contact your local animal control agency for help and to find out if you should contact your doctor about the scratch.
2. Scrub the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes. If you have iodine or alcohol, use them to clean the wound. Then put a bandage.
3. If the wound is severe or bleeding profusely, go directly to your nearest emergency room for treatment.
4. Watch the wound for signs of infection (redness, swelling, pus). If you see these signs, contact your doctor to see if you should be treated with antibiotics or a tetanus booster shot.
How to stop a squirrel from scratching you?
Squirrels may seem to be friendly animals, but you don’t want to get too close. These rodents can carry diseases and lice, and they have sharp teeth and claws that can cause a lot of damage if the animal feels threatened.
On top of this, some people have reported that squirrels can actually be quite aggressive, even if they are not scared or threatened. A squirrel has ever scratched if, you know it can be painful!
Here are some tips for preventing an encounter with one of these rodents if possible:
Do not pet a wild squirrels
A major reason that people get scratched or bitten by squirrels is that they try to pet them or feed them by hand. These animals may appear friendly and approachable, but they are still wild animals. It’s not safe to get too close to squirrels in the wild.
Don’t approach squirrels in the wild and don’t let your children near them either
Pay attention when you’re walking through the park, and make sure not to approach any squirrels that seem friendly. They might think they’re being friendly, but they could still give a bite or scratch even without meaning to hurt you.
Use Squirrel-proof Feeders
If you have bird feeders in your yard, you’ve probably noticed that squirrels can be just as attracted to them as birds are! If you have squirrels visiting your yard frequently, it’s best to use a bird feeder that is designed specifically to keep squirrels out of it. These types of bird feeders usually work by closing off access whenever a weight is placed on them, such as when some other animal — like a squirrel — attempts to get at the seed inside. You can also purchase “cages” that surround the bird feeder and prevent access from the outside.
Another common way people try to protect their bird feeders is by using a repellent. Most commonly, this comes as some type of spray or granule that makes a surface taste bad and discourages animals from going near it. You can purchase these sprays at most garden centers, home improvement stores, and even some grocery stores.
Squirrel Proof Your Skin
Since repellents are not effective, consider making your skin unsuitable for a squirrel attack by wearing protective clothing when working outside. This can include boots, long pants and sleeves, gloves and even a helmet if you think you might be at risk. If you have been attacked before while wearing this clothing it is probably time to call an animal control specialist.
Here are the answers of some FAQs related to squirrel scratches:
Should I be worried if I get scratched by a squirrel?
Squirrels are extremely skittish little creatures who rarely attack humans unless they feel threatened. There are not so many official records of rabies in squirrels, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. If a squirrel has scratched you and is worried about rabies, there are some simple steps you can take to ease any concerns.
First, wash the wound with warm water and soap for five minutes to decrease the chances of any bacteria getting into the wound and causing an infection, according to the CDC. Then, seek medical attention immediately.
If you notice the squirrel acting strangely, be sure to call your local health department or animal control agency so they can assess the situation. Because squirrels are not common carriers of rabies, this point is crucial: if they are acting aggressively or seem confused or disoriented, they may have rabies or another disease.
Is squirrel scratch poisonous?
Squirrels can carry diseases but are not inherently poisonous or toxic. It is rare for a squirrel to carry rabies, but if one is acting strangely or aggressively, it is best to keep your distance and contact animal control.
The squirrel bites are usually harmless and not very serious. However, in extreme cases, if it bites you pretty badly, it can lead to complications like necrotizing fasciitis.
Why does it itch and burn when a squirrel scratches you?
Itching and burning are symptoms of inflammation. Inflammation is a response to injury, infection or irritation. When the skin is irritated, it becomes red and swollen. It may itch or burn as well.
The itchiness results from your brain interpreting the irritation in your skin as something that could be dangerous. This is an evolutionary response designed to make you want to get rid of whatever is irritating your skin. It also makes you want to avoid things that are likely to irritate your skin in the future – like a scratchy squirrel.
The burning sensation results from chemicals called cytokines being released by your immune system cells, which pass signals back to your nervous system telling it that the area is inflamed, swollen and painful.
Squirrels have claws with sharp tips, like needles. When they scratch, they push these through the first layer of skin (the epidermis) and into the second layer (the dermis). The tips can break off under the skin and cause irritation there, resulting in itching and burning.
Do you need a rabies shot if scratched by a squirrel?
Unless the squirrel is acting in an unusual manner, you probably won’t need a rabies shot. Squirrels rarely carry or spread rabies. However, if the animal has attacked you and broken the skin,, see your doctor right away.
When it comes to squirrel bites and scratches, the biggest thing to worry about is infection. If you get bitten or scratched by a wild squirrel, don’t just ignore it. Wash the wound and apply disinfectant, then go see your doctor for treatment.