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Do Raccoons Attack and Eat Dogs?

Nicole Cosgrove

You don’t have to live in the country to see a raccoon. These animals have adapted so well to humans that you may even see one or more raiding your garbage cans in urban areas. If you have pets, raccoons do pose a threat. While it’s rare, it is possible that a raccoon may attack and kill your dog.

On the other hand, cats are usually safe. They are more agile than raccoons and can run twice as fast as they can.

leaves divider leaf

Raccoon and Dogs Encounters

raccoon, editha, Shutterstock
Image Credit: editha, Shutterstock

Both raccoons and dogs are part of the order Carnivora. That taxonomic relationship may explain why conflicts occur between the two animals. A raccoon is a formidable opponent because of its bulk and size. It can grow up to 37 inches long and weigh 23 pounds. That puts it into the small-to-medium-sized dog category.

Raccoons can reach speeds up to 15 mph, which can give the average dog a run for its money at 18 mph. Raccoon-dog encounters usually don’t often occur because of the different activity patterns of the two animals. Raccoons typically come out to forage at dusk but more likely at night to avoid contact with humans.

Raccoons also are less active during the winter while dogs are still playing in the yard or going for their daily walks. The takeaway message is that their paths don’t often cross.

When Raccoons Attack

Two factors come into play when discussing whether a raccoon will attack and kill your dog. The first concerns its adaptation to people. These animals are quite intelligent. Resident wildlife can quickly figure out the activity patterns of a neighborhood, learning when it’s safe to explore.

Raccoons will become accustomed to people with time. That will set the stage for them to get bolder. They may root around the edge of your yard while you and your family hang out on your deck. Remember that the raccoon is both a predator and prey species. Stealth is the key to its survival in both arenas.

More often than not, your dog is instigating the skirmish with a raccoon. It may see or smell the intruder. Then, your pooch will do what comes naturally to it, namely, defend its territory. If you have a large dog, the battle is pretty much one-sided. It’s a problem if they’re more evenly matched.

Too Fearless for Comfort

raccoon garbage,Magalie St-Hilaire poulin, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Magalie St-Hilaire poulin, Shutterstock

It’s one thing if you catch a raccoon rummaging through your garbage can and chase it out of your yard. It’s quite another matter if you or your dog encounter one during the day. That brings us to the second factor determining whether a raccoon may attack your dog—rabies.

One of the telltale signs of rabies is sudden behavioral changes. When you see a raccoon approach you or your dog, that’s one of those times. Remember that raccoons are prey to a variety of species, including Great Horned Owls, Red Foxes, Coyotes, and Bobcats, not to mention humans. That makes them cautious and part of their fight-or-flight response.

Rabies in Dogs and Raccoons

There are several variants of the rabies virus, named after the animal that transmits. As you may expect, the spread often occurs between members of the same species simply because they’re more likely to encounter one another. Canines can get the raccoon variant through a bite that punctures the skin, leaving the infected saliva in its wake.

However, most cases of rabies in the United States come from bats. Raccoon variants occur primarily on the East Coast, whereas the skunk one exists in the central portion of the country. A rabid animal may attack a dog, answering that half of the question.

The troubling thing about it is that an infected raccoon can spread the virus for several weeks before it shows symptoms. Once that occurs, it’s usually a matter of fewer than three days before the animal dies.

raccoon teeth
Image Credit : dodo71, Pixabay

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The Aftermath of an Attack

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Image Credit: Pixabay

To answer the second part of the question, we must look more closely at the raccoon’s diet. These animals are omnivores, which means that they eat both plants and meat. They have a sweet tooth and will feed readily on berries, apples, and peaches. They also like acorns, nuts, and corn.

On the meat front, raccoons will feed on insects, fish, amphibians, and rodents. One of their characteristic behaviors is dousing their food in water before eating. We can conclude that wildlife that lives near rivers, ponds, or wetlands makes up the bulk of their diet. What about that rabid raccoon?

The answer is yes if the attack has gone that far. Most likely, someone in the household hears the commotion and chases off the raccoon. That’s one reason why pet experts encourage people not to leave their dogs unattended outdoors.

Just because it can happen, it doesn’t mean that raccoons are on the hunt for dogs. Again, it’s unusual behavior. If you encounter one while walking your dog, back off slowly and don’t approach it. Take care not to let the animal feel threatened. Call your chapter of animal control to report the incident.

Fortunately, these types of attacks are extremely rare. Prevention is the ideal solution. Don’t make your yard hospitable to raccoons. After all, they are wild animals that are unpredictable in the best of circumstances.


Featured Image credit: Dger, Wikimedia

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.