Careless Mistakes That Can Kill Your Dog

This pretty girl is not a great swimmer. If she fell into the pool while alone, she might not make it out of the pool.

I am a pet sitter. As a pet sitter and a dog owner, my first priority is the safety of the pets in my care. I connect with many other pet sitters and I hear of sad stories every single week about dogs that have become injured or have escaped a yard because someone left a door or gate open. The saddest of the stories are the accidental deaths that occur: the dogs that run out a door and into the street, the dogs that run away and are lost forever, the dog that slips out of a loose collar while walking, the poor dogs that fall into a pool and are not discovered in time to be saved, and the list goes on. How can you keep your pet safer at home, when visiting family and friends, or leaving your pet with a sitter?

First off, let’s examine the potential dangers and ways to prevent a tragedy:

  • Escaping the yard or front door — This happens far too frequently. If you have a dog that wants to dart out of the front door or backyard, teaching the dog to wait and not bolt is the best choice for when they are home. However, if you are dropping your dog off at a different location, assume that your pet will have some anxiety initially about being in a strange place and is much more likely to try to escape. When you meet the sitter, do they have baby gates blocking the front door? How do they handle drop-offs and pick-ups? Do they separate multiple dogs to minimize the chance of an escape with crates or kennels? How many people live in the home? Do they have gardeners, housekeepers or others that might let your dog escape? Are there kids in the home that might be more likely to leave a door open? Is there a doggy door? It is harder to keep track of dogs if they can come and go as they please. For this reason, I am not a huge fan of doggy doors. Not to mention, I have seen videos online of coyotes following small dogs into homes. Is the backyard securely fenced? Are the gates solid and locked? When you meet a potential sitter or visit a friend, walk the perimeter of the yard and look for any places where a dog could escape. Will the sitter ever allow the animals alone in the yard unattended? An anxious dog will look for ways to escape. A visiting dog should never be left outside alone or with other dogs unattended — not even for 5 minutes. Is the fence high enough to avoid a dog from jumping over the fence? How about squeezing under the fence? Can they easily dig their way under the fence? Small dogs can and do escape through some very small holes. It happens all the time.
  • Swimming pools — Will the dog have access to a swimming pool? Is the dog a great swimmer?Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a good swimming dog can be fine in a pool alone. Dogs that are great swimmers can and do drown. If the dog has a seizure or some other medical event while swimming, if no one is there to scoop them out, they will drown. Can the dog find the stairs? If they can’t get out of the pool, they will tire eventually and still drown.
  • Predators — Birds of prey and coyotes are in many neighborhoods now. They don’t just pick up dogs out of backyards in the movies. I live in Los Angeles and we have urban coyotes pluck small dogs from their yards weekly — and it is increasing.
  • Poisoning — Dogs can easily get into things that are dangerous. Your neighbors may have a rodent problem. Rat poison and antifreeze are both highly poisonous to dogs. If your dog captures a poisoned mouse or rat, they can consume a fatal amount of poison. Many fertilizers are also lethal. A garage can be a very dangerous place.
  • Theft — There are evil people out there that will steal or poison an animal left in the yard unattended. I have a friend that had her dog stolen from her front yard this year while she was standing there! A few weeks ago, a handyman that I met at a client’s home lost his dog to poisoning. He suspected a neighbor’s kids. Watch for any unusual activity or people. Cameras have gained a lot of popularity for this very reason.

I wish that I was being overly cautious — but I am not. Dogs are dying too often because we are not being careful enough with their surroundings. Our animals trust us to keep them as safe as possible. We would do just about anything to keep them from harm. It hurts my heart every time that I see another post on Facebook or the local news about a dog that was accidentally hurt or killed because someone thought a dog could be safe in a yard. Everyone that has experienced this says the same things, “It happened so fast” or “I only left them alone for a minute.” Don’t be afraid that you will offend a pet sitter by asking too many questions. Any professional pet sitter will want to keep your pet safe above all else. If their yard or home doesn’t seem safe, get someone else. Accidents do happen. Let’s prevent as many as we can and be ready for the ones that we cannot prevent. If you move to a new location, get recommendations for a new Veterinarian. Locate the closest 24-Hour Veterinarian Emergency Clinic. Take a First Aid/CPR course for pets. Prepare a first-aid kit for your pet (and your people). I keep mine in a backpack in my car. It is amazing how handy it can be to be prepared. I am a strong believer that many accidents can be prevented or minimized with some good preparedness and constant vigilance.

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