Outdoor Dog Safety 101: Keeping Your Pup Safe in Nature

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outdoor dog safety

The outdoors have the potential to be a dangerous place for dogs. There are different reasons for dogs to be outside based on their lifestyle and interactions with their owners.  The amount of time and reasons to be outside can be directly proportional to the risk of problems.

Variables that impact a dog’s exposure to outdoor dangers include:

  • Some dogs are indoors most of the time and only go out to “do their business”, others are indoors and outdoors in various proportions, while some dogs are outdoors all the time. Neglected, unowned, roaming or feral dogs have increased exposure to all dangers. The more a dog is outside, the higher the risk of problems.
  • Some mostly indoor dogs may be exposed to outdoor dangers when they go on outdoor adventures such as hiking, camping, biking, boating, or running.
  • The overall quality of veterinary care for dogs can impact outdoor dangers. Unvaccinated dogs that receive no prevention medications have a higher risk of infections and disease.
  • Intact (unneutered) dogs have a higher risk of fights, running away, roaming, or pregnancy.

Outdoor Safety Dangers in Dogs

The risk of outdoor dangers for dogs is not only impacted by the amount of time your dog is outside but also on your location in the country, the activity level of your dog, the environmental temperature, the freedom of your dog (fenced in yard vs. allowed to roam), the activity your dog is participating in, and his overall health, nutrition and medical care.

Below are possible outdoor threats to dogs:

  • Trash or junk exposure – Dogs that roam or get out of the yard have the possibility of exposure to trash, toxins, spoiled garbage, bones, and dead animals. Ingestion of any of these items can cause gastrointestinal upset with symptoms such as vomiting and/or diarrhea. Even more dangerous is the opportunity for outdoor dogs to ingest toxins such as antifreeze, rat poison, or indigestible objects that can get caught in the stomach or intestine.  Learn more about Antifreeze Toxicity in Dogs or Gastrointestinal Foreign Body in Dogs.
  • Toxic food exposure – Just as dogs can ingest spoiled trash, they can ingest foods toxic to them such as grapes and raisins. Learn more about Grape and Raisin Toxicity. Another good article is Be Careful with These 5 Foods That Make Dogs Sick.
  • Bite wounds –Dogs that are outdoors can get in fights with other dogs or sustain bite wounds from animals such as groundhogs, raccoons, or opossums. Outdoor dogs can also be exposed to snake bites that can vary from minor to life-threatening. Another life-threatening consequence of a bite wound is from bites from animals infected with Rabies.
  • Trauma – Outdoor dogs are commonly exposed to hazards such as being hit by cars, falls, lacerations, or even being shot. Dogs that run free or are even in the yard can sometimes find sharp objects that cause a laceration to their feet or skin. Lacerations are a common emergency that presents to veterinarians.
  • Parasites – Dogs that that spend time outdoors have a higher risk of exposure to all kinds of parasites including ticks, fleas, and gastrointestinal worms such as roundworms or whipworms. Parasites can vary in their level of danger from being annoying and causing skin infections to life-threatening and causing Lyme disease or heartworm disease.  Learn more in this article about Keeping Your Dog Safe from the Most Common Dog Illnesses.
  • Infectious diseases – Dogs that are outdoors and have exposure to other dogs have a higher incidence of disease from kennel cough, parvovirus, distemper, canine influenza (flu), and much more.
  • Plant toxicity – Outdoor dogs have exposure to all kinds of plants that can cause problems. Learn more about toxic plants in this article: Adding Some Green to Your Home? Reconsider These Plants Dangerous to Dogs.
  • Heatstroke or heat-related illness – Outdoor dogs can suffer from heat-related illness or even heat stroke when exposed to high levels of heat and/or humidity. This occurs when the ambient temperature surpasses their ability to dissipate heat. This is more common in dogs that are obese or have underlying medical issues. Dogs that go running, exercised on hot days, have poor access to water, or are left in a car have an increased risk of heat illness. Learn more about Heat Stroke in Dogs.
  • Drowning – Near drowning or drowning can occur in ponds, lakes and swimming pools. This can occur both in the summer or winter as some dogs will fall through the ice, can’t get out of the water or find themselves exhausted when swimming. Learn more about Near Drowning in Dogs.
  • Insects – Insects can be annoying with their bites, cause allergic reactions, infections or spread life-threatening diseases. Bee or wasp stings can cause allergic reactions in some dogs but spider bites can also be dangerous. Mosquito bites can spread heartworm disease, ticks can spread Lyme disease, and Kissing bug bites can spread Chagas Disease.
  • Bad water – Outdoor dogs can be exposed to sources of water contaminated with chemicals or infected with protozoan organisms such as Giardia.
  • Lost – Dogs that are outside can become lost. This is more common when a dog is frightened and runs such as during fireworks. Make sure your dog is identified with a collar, tag, and microchip.
  • Stolen or taken– Although uncommon, dogs that roam or are outside unsupervised may be considered unowned and taken or stolen.

Outdoor Safety Dangers Tips for Dogs

The following are suggestions to protect your outdoor dog from common dangers.

  • Ensure your dog has plenty of fresh clean water at all times.
  • Outdoor dogs must always have shade or cover available to ensure your he is neither too hot nor too cold.
  • Ensure your dog is current on vaccinations such as rabies, distemper, leptospirosis, parvovirus, adenovirus-2, parainfluenza, bordetella, coronavirus, Lyme disease, canine flu based on the risk factors in your area.
  • Have fecal examinations done twice a year and treat as needed.
  • Provide prevention medications for fleas, ticks, and heartworms based on your dog’s risk.
  • Provide a good quality AAFCO approved dog food and feed to ensure your dog is an ideal weight.
  • Spend time with your dog daily to ensure he or she is healthy, eating well, acting normal, and provide quality bonding time.  It is good to pet your dog and observe them for any wounds, bumps, skin infections or other abnormalities.
  • Depending on your situation, it is generally recommended that dogs be restricted in their roaming. The more freedom a dog has outdoors, the higher the risk of problems that can vary from being hit by a car, exposure to toxins, or gunshot wounds.

Additional Articles that May be of Interest About Outdoor Dog Safety:

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