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Pets and the outdoors: Some Sunny Surprises

Many pets naturally love the outdoors but some caution may be needed to keep them safe.
With summer in full swing, it’s likely your pets, especially dogs and cats, are spending more time outdoors.

If you’re reading this, odds are you are a good pet owner who tries to assess potential hazards and protect your pet from them. You make sure outdoor cats and dogs have water and shade. You make sure they’re up to date on vaccinations. You have an identification collar on them or even a tracking chip implanted in them.

There’s More

Unfortunately, this doesn’t cover all potential dangers. Even if your pet never strays from the backyard, a range of other threats are out there.

The most likely risks are ironically easy to overlook: other pets. Dogs or cats biting or scratching other is the number one source of pet injuries outdoors. These can range from a minor nip to a scratched eye or major mauling. Knowing your pet and those he or she is likely to encounter, possibly limiting those encounters or avoiding them entirely, are strategies you should consider. Obviously, complete avoidance is impossible, but honestly assessing your pet and various environments is a mode of thinking you should make a habit.

And thinking your big German shepherd or rottweiler is immune to these problems can be a mistake. Sure, the bigger critter will usually win such battles, but the other pet may get in enough bites or claws to seriously injure yours. That’s not good for your pet and it won’t be good for you after an expensive visit to your vet. And there are animals that “punch way above their weight” that can cause serious injury to others, even if they are several times their size.

Wild and Wooley

Wild animals are another risk that’s often overlooked, including critters that are surprisingly widespread even in cities. Coyotes, racoons, possums, groundhogs, skunks and bats are plentiful in many cities. And even without those, there’s  almost always rats and squirrels.

Many pet owners are surprised at the presence of these threats and the potential for serious injury. Coyotes and foxes regularly prey on small dogs and cats, even occasionally snatching a would-be meal on the end of a leash. Suburban dwellers, especially, should EXPECT these types of threats as they have moved into areas that often border wild areas or lie in areas that were recently hunting territory. Rural residents will take that for granted, but new residents often need to learn that.

Underestimating these dangerous is as big a mistake as it is common. Even a common squirrel can cause a serious wound. He or she will probably lose the battle, but you may be out hundreds of dollars for stitches, or worse.

Certain areas require additional awareness. Javelina’s and wild hogs, bears and bobcats are among the animals that are widespread, even plentiful, in some areas. Alligators are a real threat in several southern states, especially Florida. Each year, snakes injure or kill pets, especially in western states like Colorado and Arizona.

Size Doesn’t Count

And then there are the “little” threats: insects like scorpions and venomous spiders. According to National Geographic, there are actually up to 40 species of scorpion can kill a human being with their poison. A dog or cat is no challenge.

None of this is to say you should live in constant fear for your pet or never let them out. This suggestion is to consider what are the most likely dangers in your area, try to avoid them and be prepared when you can’t. We always recommend a good first aid kit be kept on hand. Taking time to research what’s in your area is common sense.

A final reason for care is not what might  happen to your pet but what they might do: dogs and cats kill wildlife at an unbelievable rate. Cats are estimated to account for the death of millions of songbirds and dogs are