Do Fence Me In


Protecting our pets from pesticides and others harms

MY NEIGHBORHOOD looks like a movie frame: groomed lawns, beautiful flowers and perfectly trimmed hedges. While my dog, Schmooz­er, and I were on our walk, I was thinking how lucky we are to live in this wonderful area. Then, a group of men wearing head­gear, masks and orange jackets started heading toward us.

Were they preparing for nuclear testing? No, they were posting signs that said, “Stay off lawns until spraying is concluded,” and then they were spraying, and spraying and spraying.

Hmmm! Were these warning signs (and others like it, such as “Don’t drink recycled water”) posted for my good health? I had to wonder, if I’m not supposed to drink the water and I’m supposed to stay off the grass, then what about my dog?

What dog does not dream of escaping his or her dogdom, and galloping through fields of green, chasing rabbits and squirrels and lying on the grass — paws up — embracing the sunlight? We don’t want to deprive our best friends of La Dolce Vita, so, we build the best fences and put in a doggie door so our dogs (and cats) can enjoy the great outdoors in freedom.

Yet, there is concern about pesticides and what kinds of fences are most effective to protect our four-legged buddies from a medical emergency. What’s a responsible pet owner to do?
I contacted Dr. John Boyd at Dr. Boyd’s Pet Resort to find out.

Q: Do you think the chemicals/pesticides that are sprayed on lawns affect our pet’s health?
A: Absolutely. Those chemicals and pest­icides, which warrant “those men” to wear special gear and post warning signs, are by no means uniquely and selectively harmful to only humans. Other mammals are equally at risk — if not at a greater risk due to their smaller size and more intimate interaction with the areas being sprayed.

Q. If you think your pet is sick from these chemicals, what are the signs we should look for?  
A: The most common clinical signs seen with ingestion of one of these chemicals are lethargy, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and depression. Occasionally, a chemical will be ingested that causes generalized muscle tremors, a lack of coordination, hyper-reactivity and even seizures.

Q: Are there any precautionary measures that you can recommend?
A: The vast majority of sicknesses we see from these sprayings are in dogs and cats that are allowed to wander around in their own family’s backyard within 24 to 48 hours of spraying.

Q: What type of fencing seems to be the most effective and safe for pets?
A: For a fence to be fully effective, it needs to be solid and secure. A solid fence made out of wood is far more protective and calming to dogs than a fence made of chain link. Secure fences need to be just that: secure. They must be tall enough and they must be low enough.

Q. Are you an advocate of electric fencing?
A: No.

Q: You see a lot of fence accidents, heads caught, etc. How do you help a dog that has caught his head or paw in a fence?
A: Dogs are inherently part of a natural prey-predator world. In this dog-eat-dog world, when a dog encounters a stressful or potentially harmful situation, the dog has only two available options: fight or flight. Their decision as to what they will do when stuck in a fence is instinctual. In this case, the dog’s first option of “flight” has been removed from the equation; so, the dog will “fight.”

With that in mind, approach all trap­ped dogs with extreme caution. Remove all other dogs from the area and, if avail­able, apply a leash as well as a fitted or makeshift muzzle on the trapped dog. Speak in a calming voice and avoid ex­tended direct eye contact. Although this type of gazing can be kind and gentle in the human world, it confers a completely different message to the trapped animal. To them, direct eye contact is highly stress­ful and yet another clue that their life is in imminent danger.

After clearing the area and protecting yourself, proceed to free the dog by work­ing on the fence (bending it, cutting it, etc.) and/or calling for assistance. Once the dog is freed, allow the dog some immediate personal space and private time to calm down and realize that he or she is now safe; however, never lose control of the leash.

Q. What preventive advice can you give pet owners who are thinking of buying a new fence?
A: If the fence is made of chain link, pay particular attention to the integrity of the fence along its bottom edge. It’s critical that the bottom of the fence be finished off with a solid bar that will prevent the chain link from bending and allowing a dog to simply “push through.”

If the fence is meant to confine or separate dogs, or is being used to calm and keep a dog quiet, then I would recommend you buy a solid fence in which the dog cannot directly see who or what is on the other side. In this situation, a solid fence will often reduce a dog’s anxiety; therefore, we would expect to hear less barking and see less “fence fighting.” Whenever we build fences to control or confine dogs, we like to incorporate a sim­ple “safety section,” or vestibule at each of the entry points. This type of double-door scenario (as seen at most public dog parks) can prevent most of the escape attempts and certainly saves lives.


Pet Patrol: By Sandie Lampe

Categories: Lifestyles