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Controlling Urban Wildlife Dangers to Pets and People

Posted June 13, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Raccoon on top of trash

When people hear the term “Urban Wildlife” they aren’t talking about a crazy party in the suburbs. Urban wildlife refers to non-domestic animals that are forced (or choose) to live in and share our environment with us, whether we like it or not. Oh, they’re cute enough and in most cases their species was there long before we were, but they can pose threats that aren’t always obvious at first.

Clearly, people have expanded our living environment into open space, forests and other areas that were once the purview of these wild critters. The experience of sharing our yard with wildlife can be a lot of fun. Observing, interacting with and feeding somewhat exotic or at least unfamiliar species can be a little like watching Wild Kingdom episodes right in your back yard, but not so fast there. Many, if not all, of these animals present a potential health risk to your family and pets. Look out the window and you may see any or all of these critters:

  • Raccoons: While they’re cute and entertaining, they’re often curious and seem to love dog and cat food. They have a habit of finding their way under and into houses and can be very hard to eliminate.
  • Foxes: Though foxes often avoid people, you may have seen a few passing through the yard.
  • Skunks: Even with their unpleasant odor, nothing beats a baby skunk for cute factor.
  • Coyotes: Increasingly, coyotes are returning to their natural habitat and beyond. Coyotes are commonly seen in metropolitan areas and city parks!

What diseases do these wild animals carry?
First, remember these animals are not vaccinated nor are their parasites controlled; meaning, some of the diseases you go to such great lengths to avoid are closer than you think. Let’s talk about some of the diseases:

  • Rabies is undoubtedly the most frightening and deadly disease carried by wildlife. It’s transmitted in the saliva of infected animals, primarily by bites. The primary carriers vary by region, but if you have raccoons, foxes, skunks, coyotes or bats in your yard, there is a potential risk of exposure to you and your pets. There have been rare and sporadic cases in skunks and even rabbits, but they represent much less risk.

Prevention: Rabies vaccination is extremely effective. It is required by law in dogs but not always in cats. If your cat is outdoors, be

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.