On the way to work this morning, I heard a report on the radio that the RCMP is investigating the possible poisoning of four dogs in the Sprucewoods area near Shilo. One dog has died and the other three are quite ill.
I have been fairly fortunate that most of Bear’s illnesses have been short-lived and non life threatening. The largest medical procedure he’s had to undergo was his neuter surgery and he recovered very quickly.
I live in Shilo and am familiar with Sprucewoods so I can tell you that there are certainly dogs in that area that are tied out and some that run loose. Part of me wonders if someone got fed up with loose dogs or barking dogs and decided to and set poison out with the intent of making dogs sick. I don’t think it’s right, but I know it happens. Another part of me wonders if, in this past week’s hot weather, loose dogs have been seeking shade and hydration wherever they can find it and have ingested something in their travels.
Regardless, this sad news story got me thinking about what we can do to keep our dogs safe and reduce the chances of accidental or intentional poisoning and here’s what I came up with:
- Make sure that your dog is properly confined at all times. Whether this is on a leash, tie out, in a fenced in yard or a dog run, if your dog isn’t wandering the neighbourhood, the likelihood that he will get into something he shouldn’t is drastically reduced.
- Supervise, supervise, and supervise. Even if your dog is safe in your yard or on a tie out he can STILL be a nuisance to others. When left for long periods outside, most dogs will be quite vigilant in their own yard and bark at every tiny little thing including people, cars, squirrels or strange sounds. Some dogs will bark out of boredom, some bark because they want to be in with their people. You may think your dog is protecting your yard and house when in reality he’s just annoying the heck out of your neighbours. I love dogs but we have a neighbourhood barker and it’s quite annoying. If you run your dogs off leash in the country, especially on property that is not your own, keep an eye on your dogs, where they are and what catches their interest. There are lots of potential hazards, even in the country including traps and poisons set out for animals like prairie dogs, raccoons and coyotes.
- Do a daily yard check. Most fences built to keep dogs in do little to keep other things (including people) out! I make a habit of checking the yard at daycare and at home on a daily basis. I look for stray poop piles, garbage or anything else that might be potentially harmful to including burrs, mushrooms (some are poisonous), standing water, garbage, sharp objects and dead animals (usually birds that fly into our windows at home). If you run your dogs in another area off leash, I would encourage you to do the same there.
- Keep medications, household and garage chemicals out of Fido’s reach. At home and at daycare I have a few no dog zones. Most zones are closed off by doors I use one zone for the cat litter box and, one for dog and cat food and the other for potentially harmful cleaners. I have been trying very hard to use environmentally and animal friendly cleaners of late so there isn’t much around that’s likely to kill a dog but there are some products that will make them sick. The garage and Sean’s workshop areas are no dog zones as well since they contain paints, solvents, oils and fuel. The question to ask yourself isn’t would your dog bother that stuff but could he bother it if he was sufficiently bored, thirsty or hungry.
- Always have fresh, clean water available for your dog – even if you are going for a swim. If it’s hot and your dog is thirsty, he’ll probably drink anything to try to cool off but he will likely choose to drink clean, fresh water if you have it available to him. If a dog drinks from puddles, standing water, lake water or river water he can catch all sorts of nasties from a mild case of diarrhoea to leptospirosis. Puddles can also be a source of unintentional poisoning, especially if they contain pesticides or vehicle fluids. Do yourself and your dog a favour and always have fresh water available.
- Train your dog! There are a few great lifesaving behaviours that you can teach your dog. Including a recall, a quick down or stay cue, trade and leave it. Teaching your dog to come when called, leave something alone and stay in one place may someday save your dog’s life. If your dog does not come when called or perform any other behaviours mentioned above there’s no hope that he will when he’s outside and there are WAY more interesting things going on. If this is the case you need more training and keeping your dog on leash will keep him safe! If you are having difficulty, enrol in a class or hire a trainer for some one-on one work. Two Brown Dogs has recently added Really Reliable Recall to their class line-up. I have taken the class and have seen a huge improvement in Bear’s recall.
- Invest in a long-line. If you travel or if you have a dog with a less than solid recall you can allow him to stretch his legs with an appropriate length leash. There are longer flexi-leads which are great if it’s just you and your dog. (I dislike them because of their potential to cause injury when there are lots of humans and dogs around). You can also purchase a tracking line at any dog supply store or a lunge line at any tack or horse supply store. If you’re handy you can even MAKE one from a clasp and rope that you can purchase at any hardware store. I have a few long lines and always have one in my dog bag when we travel.
I can’t promise that taking precautions will prevent all chances that your dog will be accidentally poisoned but, being a responsible owner and training your dog can go a long ways to keeping her out of harm’s way. For more information, visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Centre to learn about how to keep your dog safe, identify poisonous plants, recognise the signs and symptoms of poisoning and learn what to do and who to call what to do if you suspect your dog may have been poisoned.