By Linda Cole
No matter where we live, wildlife is all around us. As pet owners, we know that large predators like coyotes, mountain lions and bears can be a danger to our dogs and cats. However, we share our environment with many small wild animals that can also harm our pet. Here are 13 small wild critters you’ll want to keep your pet away from.
These masked bandits have remarkable speed and agility and have been known to attack dogs and cats, especially when they feel cornered. They can easily injure or kill small dogs and cats and can cause injuries to large canines. Raccoons can also carry rabies and other diseases which can be transmitted to people and pets.
Like raccoons, skunks can carry diseases like rabies, and they also have sharp claws and teeth that can cause injuries. The most obvious harm a skunk can pose to pets, though, is a good dousing with an obnoxious smelling spray to the face if he feels threatened. Skunk spray is oily and sticks fast to the coat of a dog or cat. You can’t rub it off and it can be hard to wash off your pet, but there is an effective home remedy that will work if your pet gets sprayed by a skunk.
Porcupines are large, non-aggressive rodents capable of climbing trees, but it’s not their size that could pose a problem to pets – it’s their quills. Contrary to myth, porcupines can’t throw their quills, but they can release them quite easily when needed. Cats are not as likely to have an encounter with one of these prickly critters, but an inquisitive kitty could still end up with a face full of quills. Dogs are more apt to be victims of a quill attack. If your pet is quilled by a porcupine, take him to the vet and let a professional remove the quills. It can be tricky to safely remove them and you could cause more harm to your pet trying to remove them yourself.
If your dog or cat has an encounter with a squirrel, he most likely will come out the winner. But the sharp teeth and claws of a squirrel have the potential to inflict damage to their soft tissues, resulting in a visit to your vet.
The largest species in the squirrel family, groundhogs aren’t likely to bother dogs or cats unless they are cornered or feel threatened in other ways. They will stand their ground to defend themselves and their young, and have large, sharp incisors and sharp claws for protection. Even though a large dog would probably kill a groundhog in a fight, the wild critter could still inflict some damage to the dog.
Scorpions are nocturnal creatures that attack with a stinger located at the end of their tail, injecting venom into their prey. All scorpion species are venomous, but generally not fatal for pets. The one exception is the Bark scorpion found in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah; its sting can be fatal. If your pet gets stung by a scorpion, he’ll experience pain similar to a bee sting. Obviously, smaller pets will be more affected by a sting than larger pets.
Alaska and Hawaii are the only U.S. states with no venomous snakes, but poisonous snakes are found in the other 48. Fifteen species of rattlesnakes, as well as water moccasins, cottonmouth, copperhead and two species of coral snakes can pose a serious threat to pets that cross paths with one of these slithering creatures.
These intelligent and aggressive critters can easily find their way into our homes, sometimes by swimming though plumbing pipes to get in through the toilet. The biggest threat that rats pose to pets are the diseases they could be carrying. However, if your pet eats a mouse or rat that has ingested poison, the toxin is passed along the food chain, putting your dog or cat at serious risk.
Most toads living in the U.S. do not contain enough toxin to be harmful to pets, but that’s not the case for the highly toxic Cane toad (also called Giant, Marine or Bufo) and the Colorado River toad. Both species are found in the southern regions of the country.
Spiders, Centipedes, Millipedes, Fire Ants
The Black Widow spider, Brown Recluse spider and Hobo spider are arachnids that can be harmful to pets. Centipedes are venomous, but too small to be toxic. Millipedes aren’t toxic, but some species have defensive sprays that can cause an allergic reaction in some pets. Fire ants have a stinging bite capable of causing a severe allergic reaction in some pets, and these ants can injure or kill small pets if they can’t move away from the nest.
Read more articles by Linda Cole