Gone Wild-the risks wildlife pose to our pets

posted on June 02, 2014 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

Everyone enjoys seeing nature in our backyard.  For the most part, birds, rabbits, squirrels, and the occasional deer are relatively harmless.  However, there are some not often thought about threats present to our pets when wildlife is around.

The most common issue we see in pets is parasites from wildlife.  Things like fleas can be transmitted from squirrels and rabbits in the yard.  Tapeworms are transmitted via fleas,  so we may find tapeworms in our pets as well.  Other intestinal parasites such as roundworm can be transmitted from ingesting wildlife.  Raccoons carry a particularly bad form of roundworm that can be transmitted to our pets.  Lastly, coccidia, a single cell parasite that dogs and cats can become infected with, is transmitted through feces from animals such as squirrels, geese, and deer.

Other issues we can see with wildlife are less common but still may be of concern.  Porcupine encounters will often result in a trip to the veterinarian, as quills that are not removed may migrate through the body and cause infection and other problems internally.  Skunks may spray our pets, leaving us all with a rotten smell to deal with.

Rabies and distemper viruses can both be carried and transmitted from wildlife to our pets.  Leptospirosis is another disease carried by wildlife that can be transmitted via urine and contaminated water.  In dogs it can cause kidney or liver failure.  All three of these diseases can be fatal, but thankfully all three have vaccines to help prevent disease.  Discuss with your veterinarian your pet’s risk for leptospirosis, but most veterinarians recommend rabies and distemper vaccines and most state laws require the rabies vaccine for all pets.

Lastly, wildlife can pose a problem if your pet chases them.  Cats can get stuck in trees or other areas where they are not able to get back down.  Dogs may chase animals and get lost or could even go onto roads and get hit by a car or cause a traffic accident.

There are things we can do to minimize risks however.  Some tips to help keep your pet safe include using a leash or having a fenced yard, or if you will be walking your dog off leash, avoid dawn and dusk hours when wildlife may be most active.  Vaccinations should kept up to date per your veterinarian’s recommendations.  Use a flea and tick preventative on your pet during the months that are above freezing (usually April through November in MN).  Use a heartworm preventative that covers intestinal parasites year round.  Have your pet’s stool sample checked twice yearly or per your veterinarian’s recommendations.  If you see a wild animal that is acting strangely, call animal control, do not approach it yourself or allow your pet to interact.

Hopefully with some simple precautions, we can help you and your pet coexist with the wildlife in our own backyards.  Call us today to discuss any of the above recommendations regarding vaccinations, flea and tick preventatives, stool analyses, and heartworm preventatives and deworming.