By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Everyone and every pet would like a “no rules” lifestyle. Thousands of years ago our primitive cats and dogs ran freely, but what were the risks? What happened to them when food was scarce or bigger, hungrier animals had them in sight?
Civilization has domesticated our cats and dogs for companionship and in some cases as working animals. Whether for herding sheep or controlling rodents, we have cultivated the human-animal bond. Along with this comes the responsibility to feed and protect these pets against the dangers of a free-roaming past.
I once heard a statistic that indoor cats have an average life span of 13 years, but outdoor cats only average 3 years. Parasites, injuries, toxins, and predators all take their toll. The lucky ones may be found before death and rushed to their veterinarians for treatment or an emergency center at a much higher fee. Sadly, not all will survive.
Free roaming dogs will not always stay in the yard. They are often tempted to wander to visit the other dog down the road or sift through the neighbor’s mulch pile for a week-old steak bone. How did he get across the road without getting hit by a car? Lucky, I guess, but when luck runs out, can you afford the bill for an orthopedic referral to a specialty center or university? Or handle the sudden loss of a beloved pet? Is the pain and suffering of a severe injury worth the few benefits of free range?
Most communities have leash laws and at-large restrictions for pets. This is not only for citizen safety and public health but also for the protection of the pets and wildlife. Millions of song birds and small nonrodent mammals are indiscriminately killed by feral cats and nighttime wandering domestic cats. Those unwanted litters of neighborhood puppies from an unplanned breeding may or may not find homes, and territorial disputes often result in injuries requiring veterinary care.
Owls and foxes take their toll on wandering cats. A recent client told of his close call with his 10-pound dog and a hungry bald eagle. These may not be that common of an incidence, but wound infections, tick exposure, and mosquito bites all have a greater likelihood of affecting free roaming pets. These are serious health risks and can be limited by restricting your pet’s unsupervised roaming.
For the health of your pet, a leash or a confined outdoor area with indoor access is the best prevention. It is our responsibility to keep our pets safe.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.