The primary problem with dead animals, of course, is the odor.
When an animal dies in the home, it will naturally start to decay.
How do I get rid of dead animals?
Dead animal removal is sometimes simple, sometimes very difficult, and always dirty. In a simple case, an animal will die somewhere in plain view – such as under a house, in plain sight in the attic, or so on. However, most of the time, the animal dies in an unknown area – down a wall, in the ductwork, under the insulation, etc. It is our job to find and remove the dead animal, and clean up any residuals (juices, maggots, etc). Some jobs are incredibly challenging – animals will crawl into the craziest areas – the gap under the bathtub, the gap between the chimney flu and the brick column, in between floors of a home, etc. Wherever it is, we’ll find and remove it, and deodorize the area. It’s also important to find the cause of the problem – how did the animal get in? – and take preventative steps to stop the same thing from happening again.
As a dead animal decays, it gives off organic compound odorant molecules which we detect with our olfactory sense. The odor may be slight at first, but after about three days after the death of the animal, the odor can be quite strong. The strength of the odor depends on many factors.
Size of Animal
A larger animal means more decaying flesh, which means a stronger odor. A dead possum has a stronger odor than a dead mouse.
Different animals actually have different odors as they decay. Rats are particularly foul, per body weight.
Location of Carcass
This is a big deal. If it dies down a centrally located wall in an area with poor ventilation, watch out. If it dies at the edge of the attic near a ventilated soffit, not so bad.
State of Decomposition
At first the odor is weak, then it grows, then as maggots eat the carcass and the biomass decreases, the odor gradually lessens. The odor life cycle varies, depending on the size of the animal.
The dead animal will decompose more quickly at higher temperatures. Furthermore, the dispersal of odor molecules is stronger at higher temperatures – hotter = smellier.
Ability to perceive odors is typically heightened at higher humidities.
This is a big deal. Sometimes with a dead animal, people say, “I smell it stronger in the morning” or some variant. It all depends on where the air is flowing. If the dead animal is in the attic, perhaps as the attic cools off at night, the odor molecules sink down to the house level, but as the attic heats up in the day, the stinky air rises up, and doesn’t smell as strong in the house. Regardless of the exact strength of the odor, most people cannot tolerate the stench caused by a dead animal in the house. It’s simply very unpleasant, end of story.
Dead Animal Diseases
I’m really not an expert in this field. Oftentimes when I remove a dead animal, it’s covered with parasites such as fleas, mites, or ticks, and these organisms can carry and transmit disease. Perhaps there’s some pathogen on the dead animal that is harmful. Certainly one should not touch or ingest any part of a dead animal – there’s a reason we think stinky things are stinky – it’s our body’s way of saying “Do not touch. Stay away”. I have reason to believe that a dead animal may potentially pose some health risk in a home, and I always wear full protection – gloves, HEPA gas mask, etc when dealing with dead animal carcasses.