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Thinking Broadly: Outdoor Pet Threats to Consider


Spring is a great time to get out with your pet, just make sure you assess potential dangers and prepare for them.
In many parts of the U.S., spring is one of the most beautiful times of the year. But not surprisingly, spring can also hold some of the biggest threats to your pets.

Doggie Dangers

Nothing is more natural than going for a spring walk with your dog or, if you two are venturesome, a hike or even an overnight camping trip. Out in a park, let alone a forest, it seems like your dog should be able to roam free. And many times, they can, but it’s not smart to make this assumption blindly. A responsible pet owner knows enough to judge the safety of others and also the safety of their dog.

One of the first things to be aware of is that the beautiful park, or especially a pristine forest, can include a number of threats you might not see: poisonous snakes, poison ivy or other dangers just off a trail. Other dangers include large(r) predators, things like broke glass (or an entire dump hidden in brush) or even hunters and trappers.

One of the worst things that might happen is a dog that gets excited chasing a squirrel or rabbit and becomes separated or lost. Seeing a forlorn pet alone at a trailhead or parking lot, looking desperately for the return of their owner, is heart wrenching. Knowing their fate may be from a pack of coyotes makes it even worse.

Most of the threats are not so dire, but a bit of thought and preparation before heading out with your canine is a good idea. Although letting your dog roam free is wonderful in the right time and place, make sure it is the right time and the right place. And carrying first aid items for your beloved pet is a good idea. The problem is more likely to come from another dog than coyotes, and if you stick to trails, snakes and many other dangers are not as prevalent as your fears might lead you to believe, but venturing blindly into a park or forest is not smart.

Feline Fears

Cats face similar threats, although their trails are more likely around your house than a vast forest.

Both cats and dogs should be “limited” in their travels, not just because of what might happen to them, but also because of what they might do. Dogs will run rabbits and even deer, killing them if possible. In sheer numbers, cats may be even more of a threat as they are capable of killing many birds and small animals…daily! Cats are also vulnerable during their travels, often even more than dogs, because of their relatively small size. Loose dogs are an obvious threat, but so are traps for squirrels or rats. And just because you’re in the city or suburbs, don’t assume your area is free of wild animals. Coyotes live within many cities quite well and nearly every urban area will have racoons, possums and other animals that, while not normally aggressive, will defend themselves if they feel threatened.

Other outdoor threats to both dogs and cats may surprise some. Cars, larger animals and malicious humans are probably the biggest dangers, but so are fleas, ticks, worms and other parasites than can kill just as easily as other dangers, though often more slowly. Every area also has its unique risks, including surprises like Florida alligators.

None of this is to say you should sequester your pet. But you should take time to assess the dangers and, where possible, prepare and prevent them. That may mean something as simple as a flea collar or more complex steps like putting an “anti-coyote” vest on a small dog before walking near open areas. Many of these steps may prove to be unnecessary; you and your pet may just be lucky. But if even one comes into play, you’ll be glad it was there.