You don’t have to be camping or hiking to encounter wildlife – even your own back yard or the local dog park could be home to a variety of wild animals. Most of the time you won’t even see these natural inhabitants, but an unexpected encounter could lead to risks for your pet. Here’s what to do when you encounter wildlife and why you should proceed with caution.

A common North American coyote ( Canis Latrans) captured from the rear and looking to the left.

Predators

Small dogs are most likely to encounter predators, from large birds to coyotes and even bears if you are exploring a trail or camping. Keep your pup safe by keeping him on a leash and making sure he stays with you. Larger dogs run some risks from these animals too – a dog that bolts towards a predator to investigate could find himself lost or facing more of a threat than he expected. If you are camping, make noise as you walk the trail – wildlife won’t want to encounter you and will likely flee the area at your approach.

Rabid Animals

Animals acting strangely could be a threat to your pup even if they are not normally dangerous. Racoons, foxes, possums and skunks could harbor rabies and while a bite from one of these smaller animals won’t cause a huge injury, it could transmit the disease. Avoiding animals that are acting oddly and that do not seem afraid of your presence and making sure your pet’s vaccines are up to date will help mitigate this risk.

Cute labrador puppy dog getting a vaccine at the veterinary doctor - lying on the examination table

Prey Animals

Some dogs do have a strong prey drive and will seek out prey – rabbits, birds, squirrels and other animals could be a cause for concern for several reasons (beyond the “ick” factor). When your dog chases another animal, he could easily become injured or lost, particularly if he jumps or burrows under a fence to do so. There are also disease risks for your pet – and some typical prey animals have defense mechanisms that could harm your pet. Skunks (stench), porcupines (quills) and even toads (poison) could make your pet uncomfortable or ill if pursued. Sighthounds and terriers are known to have high prey drives, but if your pup loves to chase, they could have a wildlife encounter of this nature.

Learning more about your own backyard and the places you are visiting can help you identify risk—and take steps to prepare. If you are enjoying the great outdoors with your dog, packing a small first aid kit and knowing the signs of a dangerous or rabid animal will help cut your risk and keep your pet safe in the wild.

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