Pet parents have full control over their homes, but once pets explore beyond those four walls, anything can happen. You never know what sorts of animals they’ll meet or contaminated substances they’ll get into. While you can’t prepare for every scenario, understanding the most common threats will help you protect pets from what they’ll likely encounter outside.
Here are the top dangers pets face when they step out into the great, big world.
- Infectious diseases: Exploring the great outdoors increases your pet’s risk of coming into contact with an infected animal. Your outdoor cat might cross paths with a stray that’s contracted feline calicivirus or feline leukemia virus. Other pups at the dog park could be carrying the parvovirus or kennel cough. It’s impossible to know every animal’s health history. This is why owners should vaccinate their pets against common viral infections before letting them roam outdoors.
- Aggressive pets: Your dog will meet other pets everywhere they go. Unfortunately, not all dogs want to be friends. Pet parents run the risk of encountering dogs with behavioral problems while on a walk or at the dog park. When an owner fails to supervise their dog, it may start a fight with yours. Keep a close eye on your pup anytime they’re around dogs you don’t know. Consider keeping them on a leash until you’re comfortable with all the other pets that frequent the dog park.
- Oncoming traffic: Accidents between cars and pets are all too common. Your dog might bolt across the street in pursuit of a squirrel. Intact males often wander away from home to find a mate. When this happens, drivers either can’t stop in time or don’t see the pet at all. Prevent fatal accidents by keeping dogs in a fenced area. If your yard doesn’t have a fence, keep them on a leash. Neuter or spay your pet so they don’t have the desire to roam or become the target of aggressive, intact males.
- Contaminated water: Cats and dogs will drink from any water source they can find. From puddles to ponds, these outdoor water sources are often questionable. Pet parents need to be on the lookout for a waterborne contaminant called cyanobacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae. It produces toxins that are extremely deadly to pets. Deter your pet’s interest in natural water sources by packing bottled water and a dish for long hikes. Set out bowls of clean drinking water for outdoor kitties.
- Yard chemicals: Some pets are too curious for their own good. They might tear into chlorine, pesticides or antifreeze that didn’t get locked away. During a bathroom break, dogs might try to eat fertilizer that was recently sprinkled over the lawn. These chemicals are highly toxic to cats and dogs, so be sure to store them out of your pet’s reach. Allow fertilizer and pesticides to fully absorb into the ground before letting pets outside.
- Extreme temperatures: Pet parents should avoid taking their fur babies outside during extremely hot or cold weather. They’re just as susceptible to hypothermia or heat stroke as humans are! If your cat lives outdoors, provide a pet-safe heating pad and shelter that blocks out the elements. Dress pups in a jacket and booties and break long walks into multiple shorter ones. In the summer, avoid walking your dog at peak hours of the day.
- Campfires: Pet parents need to supervise their pups around campfires. Dogs could get burned if they play too close to the fire pit. Hot coals can also present a safety hazard long after you extinguish the flames. Pups can still join the outdoor fun as long as they remain a safe distance from the campfire. Stake your dog’s leash just far enough away to prevent them from coming into contact with the fire pit.
- Poisonous animals: Pets are notorious for eating things they shouldn’t. Your cat might find a dead bird in the yard and turn it into a meal. Dogs try to hunt down toads or snakes during nature hikes. Wildlife carry life-threatening diseases, and some are inherently poisonous as a defense mechanism against predators. Regularly check the yard for dead animals and promptly dispose of them. Research the wildlife in your area to learn which animals your pet should stay away from.
The outdoors present a lot of dangers, but that doesn’t mean your fur baby has to stay inside forever. When pet parents take the right precautions, cats and dogs can safely explore new environments. Keep a close eye on your pet and don’t hesitate to remove them from a situation that could potentially threaten their health.