It's been years now, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. My dog Oona, just a pup at the time, was playing in the backyard with our other dogs and when I went to call them in, they all came running. All of them except for little Oona.
I went out into the yard calling her name and couldn't find her for the longest time. When I finally did, her eyes were stretched wide with panic, she was panting rapidly and running in fast, tight little circles. When I called out to her she acted as though she couldn't see or hear me. It was one of the scariest experiences of my life.
An overnight trip to the emergency vet, an IV and a laundry list of medications later, she started to come out of it. I was so thankful that she lived through it, but I needed to know how to avoid it in the future. The vet told me it was neurotoxicity caused by ingesting periwinkle.
I didn't even know we had periwinkle in our yard and that got me thinking... What other hazards could be hiding in plain sight?
Here are 4 that you should definitely be aware of:
1. Compromised Perimeter:
Before letting your dog loose, be sure to check the entire boundary of your yard for gaps in the fence or weak spots that could potentially become gaps. If your dog likes to dig, it's a good idea to dig a trench and install wire mesh at least six inches below the surface to prevent tunneling.
Also make sure to install locks on any gates that your little Einstein won't be able to outsmart, padlocks work especially well. Even if you're diligent about locking the gate yourself, it's a good idea to check that it's locked every time you let your pup out to roam just in case.
2. Predators of all shapes and sizes:
Depending on the breed of dog you have and where you live, there are different predators to be on the look out for. Oona grew up mostly in Florida and we had a veritable zoo to guard against: poisonous snakes, spiders, birds of prey, scorpions, ticks and fleas, bobcats, skunks, panthers and even alligators.
Educating yourself about the specific potential stranger dangers native to your area is vital to keeping your dog safe.
There is no shortage of toxins, both natural and manmade, to keep out of paw's reach. Fertilizer, pesticides, pool cleaners and antifreeze are common household products that are all extremely toxic and often fatal to dogs. It's important to keep these things tucked and locked away from prying noses.
Plants are less easy to differentiate but can also pose a huge risk to the wellbeing of your dog. As I found out, plants or mushrooms that look completely harmless, could be poisonous and land your pup at the vet.
Check out this super helpful, photographic list of 23 Common Plants that are poisonous to pets so you have an idea of what to look out for. There are even more hazards, not pictured, so it's also a great idea to do some research by region to see what else could be growing in your yard.
4. Climate Control
Different breeds are obviously built for different climates, take this into account when considering how to keep your dog comfortable during each season.
During the summer months, dogs are vulnerable to heat stroke, some breeds (like Bulldogs) more so than others. Keep your pup cool outside by ensuring there's a shady place for them to rest, whether it be under some trees or in a dog house, and that they always have access to plenty of cool, clean water. (In really hot climates, change water very
frequently and dump any collected rain water to avoid the growth of mosquito/worm larvae or harmful algae).
If your dog likes to swim, a baby pool is another good idea to help them cool off on a sunny, summer day.
Alternately, as the temperatures drop and snow starts to fall, dogs should not be left out for extended periods of time. When they are outside, they should be suited up and make sure to cozy up their doghouse with blankets and pillows so they have somewhere to go to stave off the shivers.
H/t Animal Behavior College
Featured image via @ringostarr241215