It is a fact that there are dangers to domesticated dogs from wild animals in the form of physical attacks, and from the diseases they can carry, especially those transmitted by rodents.
In this article, we look at some of the dangers you may face while walking your dog in the countryside.
Out and about with man’s best friend
Coyotes, Raccoons, Skunks, and Foxes
Be particularly careful if there is a high population of coyotes where you live as they tend to kill, rather than injure, smaller dogs. Always keep your dog on a leash and close by as coyotes can usually be scared away.
As well as giving your dog a nasty bite, raccoons can infect your dog with the Baylisascaris procyonis parasite, commonly known as roundworm. This has health implications for humans who live with the infected dog as this disease is zoonotic, meaning it can be spread to different species, including humans. Ensure your dog is regularly de-wormed; your veterinarian can advise you on a suitable medication for this.
Also, watch out for skunks as, when feeling threatened, they may accompany a physical attack with the release of a foul-smelling spray. This is not something you or your dog want to experience!
Rodents and Gophers
Dogs like to stick their noses down holes in the ground and may want to pursue their residents due to their predatory nature. There is the possibility that dogs may get bitten as the creatures within defend their homes, which obviously is a disease risk but also can cause a nasty injury.
Furthermore, if a dog tries to eat a rodent or gopher they may ingest poison, especially in areas where pest control measures are in place. There would probably not be enough poison in the rodent’s stomach to be fatal to your dog, but it could certainly make them ill. Rodents also pose a risk of infection from Leptospirosis so ensure your pet is vaccinated.
Finally, it makes sense to familiarise yourself with snakes common to your area and be mindful of owls and hawks if your pet is a very small or toy breed as the bird of prey may try to swoop in to grab it. Keeping your pet close by and leashed should prevent this.
While not as prevalent as it once was, rabies is still a concern. In the US, the most commonly reported wild animals are raccoons, skunks, and bats, with foxes and coyotes further down the list, but this can vary by state. It exists on every continent except Antarctica. Rabies is zoonotic and can be transmitted to other species, including humans.
Wild animals may not appear to be rabid if they bite your dog, but as a precaution, you should go straight to a vet to get treatment. However, it is strongly recommended to get your dog vaccinated for rabies. In some jurisdictions, it is mandatory.
Enjoy your dog outdoors
Do not let the wildlife dangers to your dog put you off the idea of getting out and about with your pet. One of the main benefits of owning a dog is enjoying the countryside by taking plenty of healthy exercise in it. Indeed, it’s good for your dog, too, both physically and psychologically.
Being informed and responsible, and aware of potential dangers and taking sensible precautions against them as suggested in this article is the key.
Guest Author: Lucy Bailey
Lucy is a freelance writer and editor. After completing college, she spent over a decade running animal care businesses and charities before taking a step back to spend more time with her young family. Now she enjoys walking her dogs and writing about her passion for animals.