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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Safety



The place where most attacks on pets occur

Pet parents are being advised to closely monitor their dogs and cats even when they are in their own seemingly safe backyards, because that is where attacks by wildlife often occur, a survey has found.

"Whether in urban or rural areas, pet owners should be aware of the danger posed by wild animals," Carol McConnell, veterinarian for Veterinary Pet Insurance states in a media release. "VPI's data reveals that not all members of the animal kingdom observe backyard fences or appreciate the curiosity of a pet that may enter their territory."

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Snakes - whose bites often result in puncture wounds that require stitches and sometimes even lifesaving antivenin - are first on a top-10 list of wildlife attacks on pets compiled by VPI from its claims by policyholders in 2008, and they were followed by coyotes, second, and raccoons, third.

Rounding out the list of top 10 wild animal attacks are the squirrel, scorpion, javelina, porcupine, ground hog, skunk and rat.

VPI compiled the list after reviewing more than 500 laceration/bite wound claims. The company also received claims involving attacks by a goat, beaver, black bear, mountain lion, hawk, rabbit, sea urchin and jellyfish.

Animal attack claims came throughout the country, but javelina and scorpion claims were exclusive to Arizona, according to the survey. Javelinas, or peccaries, are feral pig-like omnivores native to the southwestern United States. They have been known to viciously attack pets and people.

Wild animal attacks typically result in lacerations, bite wounds, puncture and soft tissue trauma while scorpion stings may cause allergic reactions requiring antihistamines, according to VPI. Treatment varies depending on the severity of the attack and costs can range from hundreds of dollars for bandages or stitches to thousands of dollars for surgery for damaged organs or broken limbs.

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Sometimes wild animals that attack are rabid, so Dr. McConnell advises pet parents to get their pets vaccinated. "Always make sure that a pet's rabies vaccine is up to date and if you know that potentially dangerous wild animals are present, or you're in an unfamiliar area, take extra care to keep your pet close and secure."

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