For most dogs, the best part of their day is when they're out on a walk with their owners. But whether you’re just walking around the neighborhood, taking a leisurely stroll through the park, or hitting the hiking trail, hazards can be lurking. From chemical spills and candy to heat and wildlife dangers, here’s what every dog owner needs to look out for when strolling the street with their four-legged friend!
5. Lawn and Garden Hazards
Dogs love to sniff! Most often doing so around grass and other plants while out on walks. Unfortunately, there are many different hazards that can be lurking there — from fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides to toxic flowers, bulbs, and plants. Dogs can become extremely ill from coming into contact with some of these chemicals or plants. Sadly, in some cases, exposure can even be fatal, especially if your pet ingests some chemical or plant.
To keep your pet safe, always heed any posted warnings about recently treated lawns and look out for signs like chemical smells, wet grass, or small pellets found around bushes and plants (this often indicates recently laid fertilizer). Play it safe by keeping your pet away from gardens, bushes, plants, and flowers. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the most common toxic plants and flowers and be on the lookout while walking your pet.
Since it’s not always possible to tell if areas have been recently treated and despite our best efforts, dogs still end up walking in things. That said, it’s always a good idea to get in the habit of wiping your pet’s paws after walks. This will help prevent them from tracking in any chemicals or ingesting them later by licking their paws.
If you see your dog lick or eat chemically treated grass, ingest a toxic plant, or you suspect they may have gotten into something, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Control right away!
Signs of toxic ingestion can include:
- Excessive panting
- Increased heart rate
- Lack of coordination/confusion
4. Automobile Chemicals
From car shampoos and wiper fluid to antifreeze and oil spills, there are a lot of dangerous chemicals that can make their way onto streets, driveways, and sidewalks. Many of these chemicals, especially antifreeze — which, unfortunately, many pets are attracted to due to its sweet smell, can be deadly to dogs.
Signs of Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs:
- Confusion/lack of coordination/stumbling
- Increased heart rate and respiration/excessive panting
- Excessive thirst/dehydration
If you suspect your dog may have ingested antifreeze, they must be taken to the nearest emergency veterinarian right away!
Dog owners should always be wary of and avoid any puddles, especially in driveways or parking lots where antifreeze and oil can commonly leak. See your neighbor washing their car? Avoid that area as well. Those chemicals that run off onto the sidewalk could also pose a hazard.
Encounters between wildlife and pets are becoming increasingly common, especially in newly developed areas. While dogs can be at risk from all sorts of wildlife, one of the most common threats dogs can encounter is coyotes. Coyotes can be found in almost every state and, due to habitat loss, are more frequently ending up in suburban neighborhoods. If you live in an area with frequent coyote sightings and you have a small dog, you may want to consider a coyote vest — these have special spikes to prevent attacks.
Depending on where you live, there can be other local wildlife dangers to look out for, like venomous snakes and spiders, poisonous cane toads, alligators, and small mammals that can carry rabies. To keep your pet from having an encounter with wildlife, always keep them leashed on walks. Use caution around rocks, leaf piles, and bushes where snakes or spiders could be lurking. If you live in the southeast in alligator territory, never walk your pet near the water’s edge.
If your pet does end up in an altercation with wildlife, always seek veterinary attention right away, especially if they have been scratched, bitten, quilled (by a porcupine), or sprayed by a cane toad. Even if they seem fine at the moment, toxins (from a venomous snake or spider) can be working their way through their bloodstream and doing serious damage. Disease and infection can also spread through even seemingly minor scratches.
While a beautiful sunny day may seem the perfect time for a nice walk with your dog it’s important to be mindful of the temperature. Dogs can’t handle the heat in the same way that humans can and are more at risk of becoming overheated, even during a short walk. Heatstroke can occur quickly and be fatal, especially for dogs that are older, overweight, or brachycephalic (breeds with shorter, flatter faces like Bulldogs and Pugs).
Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs:
- Heavy panting/difficulty breathing
- Increased heart rate and body temperature
- Bright red gums
- Excessive thirst
- Vomiting and diarrhea
If you suspect your dog to be developing heat stroke, it’s crucial to get it to the emergency vet right away! To avoid heat stroke, limit walks during periods of high temperatures and humidity, and always make sure your pet has access to shade and water when outside. Sidewalks can also heat up quickly in the sun and burn your dog’s paws, so it’s important to be mindful of those temperatures as well.
From candy, gum, and fast food wrappers, to discarded vape cartridges and cigarette butts, there’s, unfortunately, no shortage of hazardous trash that people leave on streets and sidewalks. While most pet owners are already aware of the dangers and will steer their pets clear of visible trash, dogs being dogs and all, have a great knack for sniffing out hidden garbage!
While some garbage may only result in an upset tummy if your dog takes a bite, others can be downright dangerous. Some of the most common dangerous things dogs get ahold of on walks include gum or candy with xylitol in it, chocolate, fast food burgers with onions, and cigarettes or vape cartridges, both of which contain nicotine. All of these items can be highly toxic to dogs and require immediate veterinary attention if ingested.
Bones, often from discarded chicken wings, are another common item dogs tend to find on streets and sidewalks. While dogs and bones seemingly go together like peanut butter and jelly, cooked bones can be problematic. Cooked chicken bones tend to splinter and can cause injuries to the mouth, esophagus, and gastrointestinal tract. There’s also concern for bacterial contamination, depending on how long the bone has been out there. While not every bone will cause a problem, if your dog does eat one, it’s best to call your vet’s office for advice.