Symptoms of Sick Opossums

In most cases, opossums are docile and solitary marsupials that like to walk around and scavenge for food. They usually do not present a danger to anyone, as they would rather run away than fight. That being said, sometimes opossums have a sickness or disease that makes them behave differently. Keep reading for an overview of these diseases that can infect humans, as well as ways to spot a sick opossum.


Rabies is always the biggest concern when it comes to sick wild animals, and the opossum is no exception. The great news is that rabies in opossums is rare, as the virus does not survive long in the opossum’s low body temperature. That being said, there is always a chance, and one should exercise caution around any wild animal, healthy or sick. 


Leptospirosis is a nasty bacterial disease that can cause a lot of damage to humans. Kidney damage, liver failure, respiratory issues, meningitis, and eventually death can all happen to someone exposed to this illness. Opossums can only transmit it to humans through their urine. Humans can get it if they come into contact with urine that has been on the ground, or water near where the opossum urinated.


This disease can be passed to humans by coming into contact with infected tissue, scratches, or bites. In the same spirit of leptospirosis, you can also get this disease by coming into contact with any soil or water that has been contaminated by this disease. If left untreated, tularemia can cause skin ulcers, fevers, chills, body soreness, and a multitude of other nasty symptoms. This is yet another example of why it is so important to be cautious around opossums, sick or not.

Murine Typhus

This disease is not so much caused by opossums directly, but by the parasites they carry. Fleas and other small creatures carry this disease, and if a flea-infected opossum comes into contact with a human, these fleas can transfer murine typhus bacteria to the human. As it is a form of the typhoid fever, if left untreated, it can cause body aches and pains, chills, fever, and many of the common bacterial type fever symptoms.

Is an Opossum Sick?

Always treat every opossum as if it is sick. Even if the opossum looks perfectly healthy, it could be an asymptomatic carrier of a disease. There is no room for being complacent around sick or even dead opossums, as these diseases are nasty and can wreak havoc on a human.

There are many symptoms to look for when determining whether or not an opossum is sick, including:

  • Fur discoloration, manginess, and/or balding
  • Ulcer-like spots or sores on the skin 
  • Very lethargic, tired behavior
  • A very aggressive opossum, as they are usually docile
  • Dead opossum; treat every dead opossum as a hazardous material
  • Lots of saliva
  • Diarrhea 
  • Throwing up
  • Wheezing sound when breathing

Opossums are usually very peaceful creatures that won’t pose a threat to you or your family. That being said, make sure to always exercise caution when you are around an opossum, whether it looks sick or healthy. If you believe you come into contact with an opossum in any way, it is wise to get examined by a medical professional.