Walking a dog in wilderness

The beauty of nature is undeniable. Of course, we want to share the great outdoors with our furry companions, and they are certainly ready and willing to go on an adventure. Unfortunately, wild animals are a real danger to our four-legged friends, so it’s important for pet owners to be aware of the risks and take precautions to keep their cats and dogs out of harm’s way.

The first step to protecting your beloved pet is education. Once you understand and recognize dangerous wildlife that may be living nearby, it is easier to spot potential threats. The best way to prevent major injury or illness is to avoid these creatures altogether. Get started by checking out the following list of animals that can harm your cat or dog:

The Biggest Culprits

  • Raptors – Though modern-day birds may look quite different from their dinosaur ancestors; they can be just as vicious. While it is unlikely an owl will snatch a cat or small dog for its dinner, there are still risks involved when one takes up residence in your yard. Birds of prey, like hawks, are territorial. Unknowingly entering their domain with your pet can lead to a seemingly unprovoked attack.

To protect pets from raptors, owners need to be observant. Carefully scout out places where pets play. If you find a hawk’s nest, do not attempt to move or destroy it. Note the location and stay far away. Remain close to dogs weighing less than 20 pounds and never leave them unattended.

  • Skunks– Thanks to their omnivorous diet, skunks will enter residential areas in search of food. Since they often forage near homes, there’s a much greater risk of conflict with curious dogs or cats. If threatened, an adult skunk can produce a foul, pungent spray, which is extremely difficult to clean from fur and skin.

Prevention is the best method to manage these smelly pests. Keeping lawns clear by removing brush, woodpiles, and other debris discourages the animals from hiding out in your backyard. In addition, pet food left outdoors is an open invitation for a skunk, and they often den under porches or decks when they find a good source for meals.

Since these animals are nocturnal, it’s important to keep cats indoors and walk dogs on a leash at night, too.

According to Whole Dog Journal: “If your dog gets hit with skunk spray, DO NOT wash him with water (or tomato juice or anything else). Get thee to a bottle of hydrogen peroxide! And a box of baking soda!

Chemist Paul Krebaum gets the credit for applying his chemistry knowledge to the age- old need for a substance that can neutralize the smell of skunk spray. Krebaum came up with a formula — a quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide and a 1⁄4 cup of baking soda — that would alter the thiols in skunk spray and render them odorless”. Read more about dogs getting skunked @ https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/totw/dog-got-skunked/

  • Predators – they might seem similar to your own pets, but Bobcats and Coyotes are far from cute and cuddly. Both of these predators like to roam in open spaces including mountain reserves, golf courses, and parks. Their diets typically consist of small- to medium-sized mammals, which can include cats or dogs.

For the most part, these animals rarely venture near homes. However, a lack of prey, droughts, wildfires, and other issues will often compel a Bobcat or Coyote to enter a neighborhood in search of a meal.

These pests prowl after dark, so keep pets indoors or in protective cages when the sun goes down. Avoid feeding birds and other wildlife, as Bobcats and Coyotes will take advantage of the easy hunting ground. Trim grass and shrubs to get rid of potential cover, and clean up any fallen fruit on a regular basis.

  • Snakes – Instinct tells us to steer clear of snakes and for good reason. Though most are afraid of humans and house pets, they won’t hesitate to strike if injured or cornered. A venomous bite can cause severe pain, paralysis, or even death. While these reptiles don’t view domesticated animals as prey, a snake may see them as a threat.

The easiest way to keep snakes out of yards is to remove any hiding spots like stones, tall grass, or dense thickets. Also, get rid of items that attract rodents, such as unsecured trash cans, pet food, or birdseed to avoid luring a snake onto your lawn. If you see one in the wild, especially when walking a dog, give it a wide berth or choose a different route.


  • Diseases– Aside from the immediate physical dangers our pets face, there are lots of invisible hazards to watch out for, too. Wild animals can carry an array of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are harmful to dogs and cats, such as:
  • Rabies – The rabies virus affects many mammals, including bobcats, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, and bats. An unvaccinated pet’s exposure to a rabid animal can result in quarantine for up to six months or euthanasia.
  • Leptospirosis – This bacterial infection spreads through the urine of rodents and other wildlife. Contaminated soil or water is a conduit for leptospirosis, which means unleashed dogs and free-roaming cats are vulnerable. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and liver or kidney failure.
  • Parasites – Pets are susceptible to these tiny invaders due to their tendency to drink or eat just about anything. Wildlife pests that are just passing through may leave waste that pollutes pets’ food and water. Depending on the type of parasite, they can inflict gastric distress, extreme weight loss, and dehydration.

What Can You Do?

Despite these perils, you can keep your pets safe and sound. Make sure your dogs and cats are up to date on vaccinations and take them to the veterinarian for annual checkups. Remind your clients that annual well exams and maintaining vaccination protocols are a mutual concern.

Be mindful of outdoor surroundings and watch pets closely at all times, particularly at night. For dangerous or persistent wildlife pests, call a professional service and always let your clients know about your environmental observations that pose a risk to their pets.  Keeping clients informed about your concerns is a great way to establish rapport and gain more clients as a pet sitter.

Appreciating wildlife and the natural environment we share is one of the first steps in resolving wildlife conflicts with humans. Tolerance and understanding solve many perceived ‘wildlife problems’ borne from irrational fears. While there are times when we can let nature take care of itself, sometimes wildlife conflicts must be resolved to prevent further damage to our homes and property and protect human health and safety.

As always, be safe, healthy and happy! Join us for more tips and professional education @ https://associationofpetprofessionals.com/join-us/


Featured photo attribution: Kurt Cotoaga @ unsplash.com

Woman walking dog outdoors: by Johannes Plenio on Pexels