Protect pets from encounters with wild animals, bugs

Ticks are just one of many types of wildlife that can cause problems with pets.

This time of year, every year, is when the veterinary emergency doctors are seeing snake bites, tick bites and bug stings on a daily basis.

It seems like they are treating more than in years past. I (Perry Jamison) suspect it is because the area’s rapid growth has decreased the barrier between wildlife and our pets. Wild and domestic animals are coming into contact with each other more often.

Our pets are being curious or even protective of territory while wild animals and bugs are just trying to protect themselves from what they perceive as a potential predator.

As more people move here and more houses are built, this pet and wild life contact is going to continue, and maybe even increase. So how do we protect our pets with as little negative impact to wildlife as possible?

Snakes are the most common bites we see. On some days, we will see multiple dogs with bites, usually to the face and limbs.

The obvious way to avoid these injuries is to not allow your pets into locations where they live. Keep your dog on a short leash while walking so you can prevent them from getting under shrubs or trees where snakes hide. For the same reason, when hiking, keep your dog on the trail.

Snake proof your yard by decreasing areas where they can hide and where they may look for food. Keep your grass short. Snacks and the mice they eat like to hide in stacked firewood, so keep it away from the areas your pets inhabit. For the same reason, do not let debris build up under shrubs and trees.

If your dog or cat is bitten, it is always best to have a veterinarian look at your pet. There are steps that can be taken to decrease the venom’s side effects as well as chance for infection.

Knowing the type of snake is important information and allows us to determine therapy and prognosis. If possible, photograph the snake with your phone and provide a detailed description.

All summer I am removing ticks from my outdoor male cat Ollie. Besides the potential for a local reaction where bitten, ticks can transmit disease to your pet. There are many products that repel and kill ticks that your veterinarian can recommend.

You can reduce ticks in your pets’ environment with many of the same yard maintenance that reduces snakes. A 3-foot wood chip or gravel border between your lawn and a wooded area makes it difficult for them to migrate to your yard.

Discourage deer, raccoons and stray dogs and cats from entering your yard as they usually carry ticks with them. Remove items where ticks can hide such as furniture, trash and yard debris.

Since ticks can start transmitting disease to your pet within 24 hours of a bite, the sooner they are removed the better.

Since they can transmit disease to us as well, have as little contact with them as possible. For this reason, you should wear latex gloves to handle the insects.

Use tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. The goal is to remove all of it and not leave any mouth parts behind. So pull straight back without twisting. Kill the tick by placing in rubbing alcohol.

The wasps, bees and yellow jackets seem to increase exponentially in my yard as the summer progresses.

The more of them there are, the increased chance of contact with a pet. Bees like flowers so keep your pets away from flower beds.

Many wasps and yellow jackets nest in the ground, so watch and remove them from areas where your dog likes to dig. Monitor your property routinely for nests and have them removed.

If you see a stinger still present (usually from a honey bee) do not squeeze as this will push in more venom. Instead use a credit card to scrape the stinger and venom sac off.

Dogs and cats, like people, can have anything from a mild localized swelling to severe allergic reaction when stung. Have your veterinarian provide you with a safe dose of an antihistamine you can administer at home.

Cool compresses also will decrease pain and swelling. If the swelling worsens and you notice trouble breathing, then more advanced help from your veterinarian is needed.

Alligators are another concern in our area as we encroach closer to their habitat.

Prevention involves avoiding putting your pets in situations where they are more likely to be attacked.

Do not allow your pet near fresh or brackish water as this is where alligators like to hide in wait for prey.

If signs state alligators may be present and it is not safe for swimming, this is even more important for your dog.

Small canines resemble a lot of the foods that alligators eat. They do most of their hunting at dawn and dusk, so it is even more important to avoid their habitat at these times.

As we encroach on wild areas, contact with animals and pests will increase. Avoid a problem by keeping your pets from areas with wild animals while decreasing the wild animals’ desire to be on your property.

Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to petdocs@postandcourier.com.