Monday, June 7, 2010

Is Your Yard Safe for Your Dog?

By Linda Cole

It's amazing what can collect in our yards over the course of time. I don't know how many times I've picked up plastic bags, cans, bottles and other debris that's been tossed or blew into my yard. Windblown trash can certainly mar a yard, but hidden dangers in a neatly manicured lawn can also harm your pet. Their safety depends on you knowing if your yard is really safe for your dog.

Besides toxic plants or weeds growing in the yard and garden or a freshly fertilized yard, other dangers are hidden within the grass. I had feisty Yellow Jacket wasps build a nest in the ground one summer and found it by chance while mowing. Needless to say, when I mowed over their home, they let me know. Bee and wasp stings can cause serious swelling and allergic reactions as well as breathing problems in dogs and cats who have been stung. Of course we can't keep bees and wasps from buzzing around the flowers and plants in our yard, but as responsible pet owners, we can make sure there are no nests in the ground where a dog can find them. Pet owners should know how to help their pet if they are stung by a bee. It can be a serious medical emergency, depending on your pet, how many times they were stung and where they were stung. In case you missed our recent article on the subject, read Treating a Dog’s Bee Stings for more information.

Snakes slithering through the grass can be hard for us to see. A dog will probably see it first. To make sure your yard is safe for your dog, a few cleanup chores can help reduce snake encounters. Keep the grass cut short around your house and where your dog romps. Clean up brush piles and wood piles that provide snakes with a ready-made home. Walk around the yard and look for holes that may be used by snakes, and fill them with dirt. Be aware of what species of snakes you have in your area, and which ones are poisonous.

Toads, snails and slugs are very interesting to dogs. The first thing most dogs do is pick them up in their mouth. The result is a sickening look from the dog as he foams at the mouth. Most of the time, these slimy creatures won't hurt your dog, but some toads are extremely toxic to pets. Even if they aren't poisonous, they can make some dogs sick. Keep your yard safe for your dog by relocating toads, snails and slugs when you find them. And be sure to read this article to know the symptoms associated with toad toxicity.

Moles, shrews, gophers, chipmunks or any small animal living underground will leave convenient holes for coming and going. These holes present a risk to dogs when they’re racing around their yard while playing. Pulled muscles, torn ligaments or even a broken bone could be the result from stepping in a small hole with loose dirt surrounding the opening.

Wild animals venture into our environment, which makes it harder to keep your yard safe for your dog. In some parts of the country, mountain lions and bears come into yards searching for food, and can pose a real threat to pets and humans. Coyotes, possums, raccoons and even skunks have lost their fear of humans and come at night to check out garbage cans or outside pet food dishes looking for scraps of food. Besides the obvious danger to a pet who tangles with a wild critter, these animals can carry the rabies virus.

A wild animal roaming through your yard is a safety issue because a dog will know it’s there before you do, and most dogs will defend their property and owner in an instant. One night when I put my dogs outside, they tore out the back door and cornered a large raccoon before I knew what was going on. Thankfully, a squirt bottle and dogs who do what they're told averted a potentially dangerous situation for everyone involved. We left the defiant coon standing straight up, growling and hissing in a corner of the pen. Overhead dangers can also present challenges for pet owners. Birds like hawks and owls have been known to swoop down and grab small dogs and cats.

Other dangers to be aware of to keep your yard safe for your dog include: trash cans, citronella candles left on the patio, lawn and garden fertilizers, weed killer, mulch around trees, bushes or flowers that contain cocoa, compost bins, charcoal used for a grill, traps for snails or slugs containing metaldehyde, gas for lawn equipment, grass from the underside of the lawn mower, and containers of antifreeze.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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