Who doesn't love the first days of summer? Warmer weather and sunnier days mean spending more time outdoors with your furry friend. While you may know the essentials of taking care of yourself during these warm-weathered months, have you thought about what threats the new weather brings for your pets?
When the weather breaks, the likelihood that you may run into a wild animal increases, as they will begin to come out of hibernation and can end up in your backyards and neighborhoods.
Even if you live in a more urban area, taking your dog out for a walk or to an unfamiliar place can put them in harm's way. The best thing you can do is to know how to respond in case there is an encounter with a wild animal and what you can do to protect your pet.
Wildlife That Poses a Risk to Pets
Where you live may be a great indicator of what types of animals you may encounter, but even if you don't live near a forest or park, that doesn't mean that you won't run into urban wildlife.
Any feral animal poses a potential health risk, and the first thing you need to know is what kind of animals are native to your area, and their unique dangers.
Common urban wildlife animals include coyotes, skunks, raccoons, and foxes. While some of these are seemingly harmless and may not care to interact with you or your pet, a curious dog or cat can scare or provoke the animal. Coyote protection for dogs can be best achieved by having a high fence around your yard and avoiding wooded areas when walking with your pet.
It may seem obvious that some of these animals pose more of a physical threat than others, but diseases can still be transmitted despite the size and stature of a wild animal. Often, all it takes is interacting with the saliva of another animal to be at risk of infection or disease.
While we all know that your dog being sprayed by a skunk is a less than pleasant experience, it's usually a problem that can be resolved by a few home remedies. Yet, skunks, raccoons, foxes and coyotes, can also carry rabies.
Rabies is a deadly disease that spreads through the saliva of infected animals. A rabid animal will often be seen foaming at the mouth, acting aggressively, and displaying behavior not considered normal for their species.
Another common risk for pets enjoying time outdoors is heartworms. Your pet can get these from an infected raccoon or coyote. Raccoons also carry an intestinal parasite called Baylisascaris that can easily spread to your cat or dog.
If your pet enjoys the water or hiking through trails, it is best to have them vaccinated against these diseases as well as others, such as Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that is transmitted through urine.
Tips to Protect Dogs From Wild Animals
One of the best protections against wild animals for your dog is routine vaccination, per your vet's recommendations.
Here are some tips on how to best protect your dog from contracting rabies, heartworms, parasites, and other diseases.
- Stay Vaccinated. Keep your dog up-to-date on all their shots to ensure that they are protected against diseases.
- Have Ample Lighting. If it is dark outside, try to only walk your dog in well-lit areas so that you can see if a wild animal is approaching. In addition, light is a natural deterrent for many nocturnal creatures.
- Limit Outside Time. Try to keep your dog's outdoor time to a minimum and never leave them unattended.
- Use A Leash. Your dogs should only be walked on sturdy leashes, especially in rural areas and at night.
- Don't Feed Wild Animals. There are no circumstances in which you should feed wild animals. This only makes your home a desirable location for them to revisit.
- Get Loud. Be ready to make noise to ward off predators if they are approaching.
- Report the Threat. Let the neighborhood know of any wildlife spotting, especially those that pose a serious threat to domestic animals like coyotes.
If you have a smaller dog, you should always watch or accompany them while outdoors, no matter the time of day. At night, it is a best practice to turn all the lights on in the yard and use a leash when taking your dog outside to go to the bathroom.
Tips to Protect Cats From Wild Animals
Many people who own cats keep them indoors at all times. However, some owners do allow their cats to have the freedom to roam and be an indoor/outdoor cat. Regardless of what type of environment your cat prefers, it is important to consider ways to protect them from wild animals.
- Keep the Claws. The appeal of declawing your cat may present itself if you are worried about them scratching up your furniture, but remember that this is your cat's main defense mechanism. Without their claws, they are at a serious disadvantage if trying to protect themselves from a predator. Consider alternative methods to declawing, such as encouraging the use of scratching posts.
- Stay Inside. As mentioned, many cats are indoor only. Consider making this change for your pet to protect them from wild animals.
- Make Your Yard Undesirable. Undesirable for wild animals to roam in, that is. Keep your yard as clean as possible by picking up any fruits, nuts or vegetables. Harvest your garden frequently if you have one, and keep the landscaping trim to avoid wildlife making visits for food and habitat.
- No Bells. A cat that wears a collar with a bell can attract unwanted attention, so consider a collar without a bell instead.
In addition to the tips above, your cat should never be left alone outside. Not only are coyotes and raccoons a threat for physical altercations, but birds of prey are also capable of attacking or carrying off a small, domesticated animal.
If you still want your cat to enjoy fresh air, consider turning your patio into a “catio,” an enclosed area for your cat to safely enjoy. You can accomplish this by tackling it as your own do-it-yourself project, or by buying pop-up tents and tunnels for your feline friend.