You want your backyard to be a safe space for your pooch. You want it to be a place they can be relaxed and confident.
Not only should it be somewhere that your dog is completely comfortable, but it should also be free of common dog dangers. These include insects, wildlife, toxins, and more. You never want to find yourself rushing to the vet because of a hazard you overlooked.
Here are the 7 most common hidden dog dangers lurking in your backyard. Fix these to ensure the safety of your dog in what should be their haven.
1. Unsecured Yard
The dream of many dog owners is to have a fenced-in backyard where their dogs can roam free with minimal supervision.
If you also desire such a setup, you must make sure your backyard is fully secured. Check your fence on a regular basis for gaps, weak spots, and other damages. Repair these as needed.
It’s also important to know your dog’s habits while securing your yard.
If they are known to jump or climb, you must make sure your fence is tall enough to keep them in.
On the other hand, if they are known to dig or tunnel, you must make sure your fence extends below the ground to keep them in.
It’s never a bad idea to prevent tunneling even if your dog isn’t a known digger.
You never know if your dog might suddenly take up digging when something they want to get to is on the other side of the fence.
A good option to prevent tunneling escapes is installing chicken wire in the ground. Dig down at least a foot (the specific depth depends on your dog) at the bottom of your fence and install the wire mesh.
You should also make sure that any gates are secured whenever your dog is let out. Even if you’re diligent about keeping the gate shut, you don’t know for sure that other people will be.
Some dog owners take an extra step by installing padlocks on their gates. Some dogs are so smart that they’re able to learn to open up gates that don’t have locks.
The key is to outsmart your dogs, so that they aren’t able to escape your backyard despite their best efforts.
Another common dog danger lurking in your backyard is insects. These include ticks, fleas, ants, slugs, wasps, spiders, and a whole host of others depending on where you live.
Ticks and Fleas
Ticks and fleas are probably the most common. These occur in a variety of different environments and climates. Not only do their bites irritate pets (and their owners), but they can also spread disease.
If you live in an area with a high tick danger, you should also check your dog by hand on a daily basis. Simply run your hands over your dog for any bumps that shouldn’t be there.
You can then use a tick removal tool to safely remove the tick from your dog.
Ants, Slugs, Wasps, and Spiders
Though ticks and fleas are most common, there are a variety of other insect dangers that can affect your dog. These include ants, slugs, wasps, and spiders.
Many of these animal cause painful bites. Some, like spiders and wasps, even cause poisonous bits. Others are harmful if ingested by your dog.
Simply put, it’s essential that you educate yourself about the insect dangers in your local area and then protect your yard against them.
This can be as simple as keeping an eye out for these insect pests or as complex as exterminating an infestation.
No matter what, pest control is key to a safe backyard for your dog.
Insects aren’t the only critters that can cause some serious harm to your dog.
The watchful dog owner also knows to look out for larger wildlife like rats, mice, coyotes, raccoons, and more.
Rats and Mice
Rats and mice have been known to bite unsuspecting dogs and cause injury. They can also pass certain diseases along to dogs, such as Lyme disease, heartworm, toxoplasmosis, and more.
You must also be conscious of rodent control measures. Many pest control products contain ingredients that are poisonous to dogs. If your dog gets into these, they can get sick or worse.
That’s why it’s imperative for dog owners to avoid poisonous pest control products. Or, at the very least, ensure that they’re completely harmless by the time a dog is let back into the area where they were applied.
Coyotes and Raccoons
As for other types of dangerous wildlife, coyotes and raccoons are known as dangerous to dogs.
There have been hundreds of instances of coyotes attacking and killing small dogs. Sometimes they will even attack larger dogs. While coyotes might not immediately kill a large dog, they can leave them seriously wounded with fatal injuries.
Just because you live in the city doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye out for coyotes. These predators have quickly adapted to urban living and lurk in even the busiest of cities.
Living in cities has even made coyotes more aggressive. They become used to humans and are much less fearful than their wilderness counterparts.
Raccoons are nearly as dangerous as coyotes. Not only have they been known to viciously attack dogs, but they also carry serious diseases like rabies.
Depending on where you live, you and your dog are at risk for attacks or problems caused by a host of other wildlife.
Both bears and mountain lions can be big problems. These animals are large enough to kill even large breed dogs. They’ve also been known to attack dogs, especially when provoked.
Other wildlife to look out for include alligators, snakes, and skunks. These animals will attack when provoked. Many snakes are even poisonous. Of course, no dog owner wants to clean up a dog that’s been sprayed by a skunk!
Even wild animals that seem docile, like deer, can be dangerous. When startled, deer often stampeded or trample. Sometimes they’ll even head-butt or kick the animals that startle them.
Once again, it’s important to understand the wildlife dangers in your local area. Take measures to keep these animals out of your backyard to further protect your dog.
Avoid Animal Visitors
Here are a few of the absolute best ways to keep both insects and wildlife from entering your backyard:
- Never leave dog food outside
- Seal trash cans and thoroughly wash out recyclables
- Don’t put enticing foods in the compost
- Cover openings to crawlspaces and underneath decks
- Lock dog doors at night
Most important is a good, strong fence. Check it regularly to prevent damages such as gaps or weak spots. Consider adding a foot or two of chicken wire into the ground underneath the fence to prevent wildlife from digging in.
4. Landscaping Products
Many people love a perfectly manicured lawn with beautiful green grass and eye-catching landscaping.
But did you know that certain landscaping products can be dangerous? While some are only dangerous for a day or two, the negative effects of others can linger for weeks or even months.
Long grass and the associated grass seeds can pose a bigtime danger to all breeds of dogs.
The main reason they are dangerous is their arrow shape. They can easily go down your dog’s throat and become lodged there.
Grass seeds can also enter your dog’s ears or nose and cause serious issues here. Their arrow shape means they can even become lodged in your dog’s skin.
Most commonly, grass seeds get stuck to your dog’s fur and feet. They can become embedded between the paws, causing serious discomfort.
Grass seeds usually require a vet for removal. Sometimes a vet can remove them with simple tools while sometimes the dog will need to put under a general anesthetic. Sometimes surgery is even required.
The key to avoiding grass seed injuries is avoiding areas where these types of seeds are abundant. Plant not-harmful types of grass in your backyard and keep said grass mowed short.
Check your dog on a regular basis so that you can pull out grass seeds before they have become deeply embedded. Keeping your dog’s fur cut short is a great way to spot these grass seeds before they become a problem.
Lawn chemicals including herbicides and fertilizers can be seriously dangerous to dogs of all sizes.
Not only can these lawn care products make your dog sit if ingested, but just being in their presence can increase your dog’s risk of health problems. In fact, lawn chemicals have even been linked to cancer in dogs.
A number of “pet friendly” lawn care products are available on the market. Look into using these alternatives. But know that even though they’re labeled as “pet friendly” that doesn’t 100% mean they won’t harm your dog.
Your best bet is to keep your dog out of the area where the chemicals were applied for at least 24 to 48 hours. Take your dog on a walk instead.
There are numerous weeds that are known to be toxic to dogs.
Chief among these are foxglove, devil’s weed, poison oak, and poison hemlock. However, these are just the tip of the iceberg.
While some weeds are poisonous when consumed by dogs, others have parts that can break off and become lodged in your dog’s skin.
The most common culprit is foxtail. In fact, it’s one of the most dangerous weeds that your dog can get into.
Foxtail is a type of grass that carries the foxtail grass seed. Similar to the grass seeds discussed above, these barbed seeds can enter your dog’s mouth, nose, or ears. They can also become embedded in your dog’s feet, skin, or genital area.
The worst part about foxtails is that they are designed to migrate. They have an arrow shape that enables them to travel through your dog’s body. Sometimes they will even reach your dog’s internal organs, including the brain.
Prevent injuries from weeds such as foxtails by ensuring that they do not grow in your backyard.
Familiarize yourself with foxtail and other dangerous weeds so you can make sure to remove them the instant they appear in your yard.
You should also inspect your dog on a regular basis on the off chance that a foxtail grass seed blew into the yard from a neighboring area.
Certain types of mulch used in landscaping is lethal when ingested by dogs.
Most prominent among these is cocoa mulch. This type of landscaping mulch utilizes theobromine and caffeine (two ingredients found in chocolate) to boost effectiveness.
The problem is that dogs are allergic to these ingredients. In fact, chocolate can be lethal when consumed by dogs.
An alternative to cocoa mulch is probably in your best interest as a dog owner, although “theobromine-free” cocoa mulch is available (and has been deemed “dog safe”).
5. Exposure to Elements
Hidden dog dangers in your backyard are even more numerous when you consider hazards such as exposure to the elements.
Almost all dogs are sensitive to extreme heat and extreme cold, but some are much more sensitive to temperature than others.
Heat stroke is a common danger for dogs during the hot summer months.
While most breeds are susceptible, some breeds (like bulldogs, for instance) are even more at risk when the temperatures rise.
The most important thing you can do to keep your dog from overheating is to provide plenty of water for them to drink. Refresh this water as needed to keep it clean and cold.
Another good idea is to add a kiddie pool to your backyard. These cheap plastic pools are perfect for dogs that like to swim. Just be sure to change out the water on a regular basis as stagnant water is a breeding ground for dangerous algae and bacteria.
Finally, shade is of utmost importance when your dog is in the backyard. Direct sun exposure is dangerous not only in the summertime, but during all seasons as well.
Cold weather is just as dangerous for many dog breeds as hot weather.
Once again, certain breeds, especially smaller breeds, are affected much more by cold weather than other breeds.
Your best bet is to limit the time they spend outside. Keep an eye on the door so you can let your dog in as soon as they finish their business.
If your dog insists on staying outside in the rain, snow, or cold, consider purchasing a dog house for them to shack up in. Fill the dog house with a dog bed and blankets, so they have a place to stay warm when temperatures drop.
6. Human Contact
Unfortunately, humans, even well-meaning ones, can cause serious dangers to your dog.
That’s why it’s important to be on the lookout for human visitors. Consider a lock on your backyard fence’s gate and even a “Beware of Dog” sign.
Be aware that guests, friends, or neighbors might enter your backyard unannounced.
A common example is neighbor kids that lose a ball over the fence. The kids might come through the gate to retrieve the ball, failing to latch it shut on their way out.
Other visitors like utility company employees, telephone workers, and gardeners might enter your backyard, often unannounced.
This is why you should keep your eye open for commercial vehicles while your dog is out by themselves in your backyard.
As sad as it is, the criminal act of dognapping is on the rise across North America.
Though the main targets are purebreds, all dogs are at risk. Dognappers steal dogs to resale for profit, ransom or extort to the owners for money, or even for use in dogfighting rings.
It’s essential to make sure your backyard is secure from such unwanted visitors. Lock your gate from the inside to help prevent theft. Microchipping your dog is an ideal way to provide permanent identification in the unfortunate event that they are stolen.
Others with Ill Intent
Just as dognapping is on the rise so are instances of people purposefully poisoning dogs and other pets.
These people might throw poison or even poisoned meat over your fence in the event that your dog will eat it. Some people will even throw meat laced with glass, needles, or other dangerous substances over your fence.
Though instances of this happening are still rare, it’s always important to protect your dog at all costs. This is yet another reason why you should always keep an eye on your dog when they’re in the backyard.
7. Other Dangers
There are numerous other dog dangers lurking outside your backdoor, including sticks, fires, ponds, flowers, and plants.
Sure, dogs love to fetch and chew on sticks, but stick fragments are seriously dangerous when swallowed by a dog.
Keep sticks picked up when you’re not in the yard with your dog. You should even consider opting for a toy bone or toy stick instead of the real thing.
Stick fragments can hurt your dog’s stomach lining, intestines, or esophagus if swallowed by your dog. Another common side effect is constipation.
A backyard fire is dangerous to your dog in more ways than one.
For starters, the actual fire itself is dangerous. Though most dogs shy away from a burning fire, coals or hot embers left after the fire is put out can burn their feet.
The smoke and ashes from a fire can also be dangerous. This is especially true if you burn garbage or other substances that release chemicals when they’re burnt.
Lakes, ponds, streams, and other bodies of water located in your backyard pose a variety of doggie dangers.
This includes drowning. Though not very common for most dog breeds, it’s certainly still a danger to be mindful of.
More common are illnesses caused by algae and bacteria. Most commonly called “pond scum,” blue-green algae forms on the surface of water, especially on still water in hot climates.
Drinking water with blue-green algae in it might quickly give your dog a number of health problems, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue.
Blue-green algae and other waterborne bacteria has even been shown to have long-term effects in dogs, including an increase in cancer risk.
Sure, they might be beautiful to the sight, but there are several different species of flowers that can be dangerous, and even fatal, to dogs and other pets.
These include aloe vera, amaryllis, baby’s breath, begonia, daffodil, lilies, milkweed, periwinkle, and many more.
Make sure that your backyard doesn’t contain any of these toxic flowers to preserve the safety of your dog.
Most dog owners know that there are many human foods that aren’t good for dogs to eat.
Just as you shouldn’t feed these foods to your dogs, you should also make sure they aren’t planted in your garden.
Common examples of garden plants that cause problems for dogs include chives, garlic, onion, and tomatoes.
Keeping your dog safe, especially when they’re in your own backyard, is beyond important.
Taking note of the hidden dog dangers discussed above is the number one way to keep your dog safe while they’re at home.
You should secure the perimeter of your yard with a fence and locked gates, provide adequate shade and water, and take measures to prevent wildlife visitors and other pests.
Go above and beyond by taking measures to keep visitors out (such as a lock and a “Beware of Dog” sign) and checking the yard every time you let your dog out.
Simply put, you must be aware of all the dangers to your dog to keep them safe. Be wary of these dangers and only let your dog outside when you’re at home to keep them as safe as possible.