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Protect Your Pet from Wild Animal Attacks

Out in the wild or in your own backyard

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Blotched Water Snake by Sylvester75117 on Flickr

Blotched Water Snake

© Sylvester75117 on Flickr
Wild animals sting, bite, and poke our pets. What animals should you be concerned about? This depends on where you live. Here are some tips to keep your pet safe while camping, hiking, at the dog park, or just hanging out in the backyard.

A dog getting "skunked" or getting a face full of porcupine quills is something familiar to many of us. Raccoons attacking the pet cat or getting into the chicken coop are another worry.

I live in rural area, and deal with many types of wild animals. I found the 2008 Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) "wild animal attacks" survey interesting. Out of more than 500 laceration/bite wound claims from wild animal attacks, there were a variety of attacks. Besides the expected offenders, other wild animals to make the list included rats, scorpions, coyotes, groundhogs and squirrels(!). The most common claim in this survey was for snake bites.

Here are the results from VPI's informal survey:
Top 10 Animals To Attack Pets
1. Snake
2. Coyote
3. Raccoon
4. Squirrel
5. Scorpion
6. Javelina
7. Porcupine
8. Ground Hog
9. Skunk
10. Rat

While this isn't a scientific study and varies greatly by what region you live in, here are seven tips to help prevent and be prepared should you face a wild animal attack.

1) Call your county extension agent, fish and game department or state university or college for information about potential wildlife hazards for your specific geographic area.

2) Speak to your veterinarian about any additional vaccinations your pet should have (e.g. sporting dogs in the back county should be vaccinated for Leptospirosis) in addition to Rabies and other species-specific vaccinations.

3) Are poisonous snakes a problem in your area? Speak to your vet about their emergency protocol -- is antivenin available in your community? Does your vet recommend a Rattlesnake vaccine or Rattlesnake avoidance training? Note: due to lack of studies on this vaccine, many vets do not recommend Rattlesnake vaccination at this time, but talk to your vet for his or her opinion.

4) Keep pet on a leash when exploring new areas. If you pet is growling, seems cautious or has their hackles up (hair over shoulder blades) over something, take heed. They can sense other animals much faster then we can. An attack only takes seconds, and if you are far away from veterinary services, every second counts.

5) Keep a stocked pet first aid kid readily available. You can make your own or purchase a pre-stocked one. Many veterinarians will also assist you in creating a pet-specific first aid kit. Your vet can guide you on any additional first aid supplies that should be included for your particular pet/type of activities. While not a "first aid" item, I also recommend bringing along ingredients to "deskunk" your pet if necessary.
Know what's "normal" for your dog and cat.

6) Keep your pet's ID information (microchip and tags) up to date. A wild animal attack or wild thunderstorm can send them running, fast.

7) Check your property and areas where pet food is available (i.e. outdoor kennel) for evidence of animals trying to dig in. Mend the holes and fences to keep wild animals out of your pet's enclosures.

Related Reading:
Has your pet been stung or bitten?

Photo: Blotched Water Snake © Sylvester75117 on Flickr

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