Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on April 4, 2014. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Supervision helps dogs avoid injury outdoors
JACKSON – The mild spring weather brings people and pets out to play. But encounters with other dogs, wildlife and moving vehicles often hurt dogs that spend time outdoors.
Supervision is the best way to help Fido avoid trouble, said Dr. Christine Calder, a veterinary resident with a focus in behavior at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
“A dog should be either on a leash or under direct voice control at all times in an unfenced yard or public area,” Calder said. “If a dog chases cars, people, bikes, skateboards, other dogs and cats, or is aggressive toward other people or dogs, it is even more important to have the dog on a leash.”
Retractable leashes and underground fences are not good options, Calder said. A six-foot, flat nylon or leather leash is best for optimal control.
“A retractable leash allows too much distance between the dog and owner, and the leash can become tangled around the dog or owner,” Calder said. “An underground fence may deter a dog from leaving the yard, but it will not prevent other people or animals from entering the yard. Some dogs will cross the fence if there is enough motivation, such as to chase a vehicle or if they are frightened.”
Proper socialization can help a dog accept new experiences without becoming fearful and defensive, Calder said. Correctly socialized puppies are introduced to different people, situations, places and things, including other dogs, when the puppy is 3 to 14 weeks old. A dog that has not been well socialized may have difficulty reading social cues from other dogs.
Even well-trained and appropriately socialized dogs will not be totally reliable in all situations, Calder said.
“Several factors, including genetics, tolerance levels for certain stimuli and individual experiences, influence whether the dog will always obey commands,” she said.
Barbara Bigelow knows this from experience. Her six-pound Yorkshire terrier rescue, Maize, was rushed to the Animal Health Center at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine after a confrontation last summer with a neighbor’s large breed dog.
Bigelow and Maize were walking into the house when the two dogs spotted one another. Maize barked, and the two ran to confront one another. After the fight was over, Maize had multiple life-threatening injuries, including an exposed lung.
“It is unbelievable that she lived, and we have the great doctors at Mississippi State to thank for that. They saved her life and were so good to us in the process,” Bigelow said.
There are no exercises owners can use to test a dog’s reliability to obey commands. However, owners who learn their dogs’ body language can help prevent accidents and altercations. Several actions, including lip licking, yawning and looking away, can indicate a dog feels stressed or afraid, Calder said.
“The best thing to do is remove the dog from that situation completely,” she said. “If removal is not an option, then move the dog as far away from the stimulus as possible. Having a reliable recall, ‘look,’ ‘watch me’ or ‘leave it’ cue can help redirect a dog’s focus, especially those with a strong prey drive.”
When injuries occur, first aid can help, said Dr. Cory Fisher, a surgeon at the Animal Health Center and assistant clinical professor in the college’s Department of Clinical Sciences.
“You can treat a pet’s injuries the same way you would treat a human’s,” Fisher said.
Always wear gloves when treating open wounds. Cover all lacerations with a clean bandage or cloth and apply pressure to bleeding wounds while traveling to the veterinary clinic. If a wound is extremely dirty, it can be rinsed with a small amount of tap water, Fisher said.
“All wounds should be assessed by a veterinarian, but bite or puncture wounds are incredibly dangerous,” he said. “Infection can set in extremely fast because puncture wounds don’t drain well and most of the damage is to the deep tissue.”
Common sense is the best guide for deciding if a veterinarian should evaluate an injury.
“If you are unsure, ask yourself what you would do if it were your child who was hurt,” Fisher said.
Commercially available first aid kits intended for humans can be used for pets. They also can be made. Some useful items include gauze roll and pads, medical tape, a ruler for a splint, scissors and tweezers, latex gloves, towel or blanket, muzzle, antibiotic ointment, ophthalmic saline solution, and thermometer.
Contact: Karen Templeton, 662-325-1100