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Coton de Tulear puppy sitting in a field.
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While your young dog may enjoy interacting with backyard wildlife, that isn’t always the safest idea. Wild animals can carry diseases, and young puppies are especially vulnerable. Here’s what you need to know about puppies interacting with wildlife.

Spreading Disease

First, wildlife can carry diseases that can be transmitted to your puppy, like distemper and rabies. Second, puppies may not be fully immunized, meaning they’re even more at risk.

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) is carried by a number of carnivorous species, such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, otters, weasels, coyotes, wolves, and even mink. In fact, CDV is fairly common among wildlife. It’s usually spread in airborne particles that other animals, including dogs, can breathe in.

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The good news is that the virus doesn’t survive very long once it is outside the body. Rabies is also similarly passed through secretions (when an organism produces a particular substance) but rabies is usually the result of a bite from a rabid host. All mammals are capable of carrying rabies, but it is mostly found in bats, skunks, raccoons, and foxes.

Wildlife can spread numerous other parasites, like fleas and ticks. Ask your vet about an appropriate flea and tick preventative for your puppy.

Berger Picard puppy running outdoors.
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Puppy Vaccination Schedule

If you bring home a puppy at eight weeks old, they have very little immunity to either CDV or rabies. When a puppy is born, they get their first dose of immunity from their mother’s milk. When a puppy gets their first suckle shortly after birth, antibodies from the mother’s own vaccines are passed along.

Until the puppy is six to eight weeks old (when they get their first vaccine), the puppy relies only on what their mother gave them. Puppies between the ages of three and six months (12 to 26 weeks) are most susceptible to contracting distemper. And if they do, it is usually fatal in 80% of the cases. Those puppies who do survive distemper face lifelong nervous system damage and possible seizures for the rest of their lives.

How to Keep Wildlife at a Distance

Here are some tips to keep your puppy out of harm’s way until their immunity is stronger.

  • Always walk your puppy on a leash. Don’t let them sniff excrement or dead animals.
  • Set up a fenced-in area that is wildlife-proof.
  • Do not leave pet food outside, since it might lure wild animals to your house.
  • Don’t feed the wildlife.
  • Place your garbage cans inside the garage. Raccoons are notorious for opening garbage lids and having a feast, possibly leaving infected garbage remnants around for curious puppies.

Be diligent about following up on your puppy’s vaccine schedule. Until they are at least six months old and well on their way to full immunity, it’s best to keep them at a distance from wildlife.

This article is intended solely as general guidance, and does not constitute health or other professional advice. Individual situations and applicable laws vary by jurisdiction, and you are encouraged to obtain appropriate advice from qualified professionals in the applicable jurisdictions. We make no representations or warranties concerning any course of action taken by any person following or otherwise using the information offered or provided in this article, including any such information associated with and provided in connection with third-party products, and we will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages that may result, including but not limited to economic loss, injury, illness or death.

Related article: Are Dog Hiking Groups Right for Your Dog?
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