When we hear a term like rabies, we may imagine a snarling dog, acting erratically and foaming at the mouth (spoiler alert — break out some tissues before you watch the ending of “Old Yeller”). Sometimes we may overlook the fact that many (but not all) animals in the wild also carry this deadly and very communicable disease. And rabies is just one of the outdoor dangers dogs face.
A variety of outdoor critters, everything from bats to rats, raccoons, skunks, and even cattle, can become infected and transmit rabies. Infected animals spread the disease through scratches or bites.
Unfortunately, rabies cases are on the rise in the United States and all around the world. The danger has increased so much that experts recommend anyone who works with or around animals should be vaccinated.
Once animals start showing signs of rabies, the disease is nearly always fatal.
The best way to protect your dog from this outdoor danger is to make sure he’s vaccinated.
Outdoor dangers: Leptospirosis
Rabies isn’t the only outdoor danger wild animals pose.
Rodents, foxes, raccoons and more also can carry the bacterial disease leptospirosis, which can be transmitted to dogs and people.
The disease is usually spread via contact with infected urine, urine-contaminated soil, water, food or bedding. Animals also can spread leptospirosis by a bite from an infected animal or by eating infected carcasses.
In people, the disease can cause flu-like symptoms and liver or kidney disease.
Dogs infected with leptospirosis may experience fever, muscle tenderness, increased thirst, changes in the frequency or amount of urination, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy or jaundice.
Like people, dogs also can develop kidney and/or liver failure. They also can develop severe lung disease or bleeding disorders.
Just like with rabies, the best way to protect your dog from leptospirosis is to get a vaccine.
Outdoor dangers: Secure food storage
If you keep your dog’s bulky food bags outside in a garage, shed or other outbuilding, take precautions to keep it secure from rats, voles, squirrels or other rodents that can spread bacteria and disease.
Pour the dog food into containers, preferable large, plastic ones with air-tight lids, which will stop clever critters from invading and potentially contaminating the contents.
Outdoor dangers: Defense tactics
Sports coaches often say, “the best offense is a good defense” so be proactive to keep wildlife from invading outdoor spaces including:
- Keep lawns mowed and bushes, shrubs and trees trimmed. Overgrown areas can serve as an open invitation for many forms of wildlife to move in.
- Low-lying tree branches can allow squirrels and other rodents to hop onto rooftops and access areas like attics, chimneys and ducts, which can lead to them nesting indoors.
- Standing water is a way to attract mosquitos (another conversation) but also can serve as a source of drinking water that can draw in thirsty wild animals.
Outdoor dangers: Potential poison threats
While dog owners are conscious of the dangers pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals pose their animals. On the other hand, we can’t control what our neighbors and local businesses do to protect their property from outdoor pests.
If your dog roams the neighborhood, he could easily come in contact with hazardous chemicals sprayed on a neighbors lawn or bite into a prairie dog, vole or other rodent that has been poisoned.
Never let dog bring a dead or dying animal into your home. If your dog manages to do that, be sure to take it away quickly. Your dog might be irritated with you for robbing them of their prize. But in the long run it’s better to do anything you can to protect them from illness or even death.
If your dog tangles with a critter outdoors, don’t think twice, take him to the vet. You and the vet can figure out the best course of action in order to keep your favorite four-legged friends safe from outdoor dangers.
– By Amber Kingsley