Written by Jack Ries
Spring is in the air, and for those of us who own dogs, that
means that it is soon time to enjoy the great outdoors with
our four-legged companions. Although there are few things
more enjoyable and rewarding than a nice walk in the woods
with Fido, there are things that dog owners should keep in
mind while out and about with their pets.
South central Pennsylvania isn’t an area of the world that is
particularly known for dangerous flora, fauna, and wildlife,
but there are a few plants and animals worth mentioning
that could prove to be dangerous to your fur babies. I’ve
always said that education is the key to a hale and hearty
general public, so that having been said, I did some research
in to native plants and animals that could cause problems
for you and your dog. This isn’t a definitive list, so there may
be other items worth mentioning, which aren’t mentioned
here. If you are planning a hike in a new or unfamiliar area,
be sure to research any wildlife hazards that may be present
before embarking on your journey. For the purposes of this
article, however, these are some of the organisms that you
may be more likely to encounter in our area of the state.
Azalea – Although this plant is a fairly common ornamental
in our area, its leaves and nectar are extremely poisonous.
Bulbs – Daffodils, Tulips, Wild Onions, and other perennials
that grow from bulbs can be toxic to dogs. Although the
bulbs contain the highest concentrations of toxins, if enough
leaves or flowers are ingested, they can make a dog very sick.
English Ivy – This one may come as a surprise given that
it is relatively common, but if your pet eats the leaves of
this plant, it can result in vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive
Poison Ivy, Oak, & Sumac – Although it’s not common for pets
to experience the same skin reactions to these plants that
we do, they can still cause problems. While not necessarily
toxic to pets, if eaten they can cause stomach irritation and
Wolf’s Bane – Also known as Monk’s Hood and Aconite, this
is the most toxic plant on this list. All parts of the plant are
toxic, and as the name implies, it will poison your dog.
– If your dog eats any of these plants and exhibits symptoms
of poisoning, i.e. stomach irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, or
lethargy, call a veterinary clinic’s emergency line.
Birds of Prey – These aren’t really a risk to most dog breeds,
but they are worth mentioning. We have Goshawks, Red
Tail Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, and Bald Eagles in our area.
These birds are opportunistic hunters in open spaces, and
will grab any prey they can if it is small enough. If you have
a small dog, the best defense against these predators is a
good, sturdy leash. Even if the bird gets a hold of your dog,
they will usually release it without a fight once they realize
they can’t fly off with it, hopefully leaving Rover with only
some minor cuts and bruises.
Deer – We normally don’t think of deer as dangerous animals,
but in the springtime doe are leading their fawns out into
the world for the first time, and will defend them violently,
if necessary. It is rare, but if a deer feels threatened and
cornered, it will maul anything in its path. Deer hooves can
be extremely dangerous, and due to the weight of adult doe
and bucks, most breeds of dog are no match for the whitetail
deer. If you see one, especially a doe with fawns, it is best
to watch it from a distance, and wait until it passes through
before proceeding with your walk.
Snakes – There are three venomous snakes native to
Pennsylvania. They are the Northern Copperhead, Timber
Rattlesnake, and Eastern Massasauga. The Copperhead is
brown with reddish-tan spots on its back that are pointed
on the sides. The Timber Rattler is mostly tan or gray with
brown bands. The Massasauga is probably the easiest to
identify, with a light gray to white lace pattern over a dark
gray to black body. Almost every venomous snake will give
you a warning if you stumble upon it. Keep an open ear
for hissing or rattling, as this is their warning before they
bite. They will usually give you a chance to leave them alone
before they strike. If your dog is bitten by any of these, seek
emergency veterinary services immediately.
Speaking of veterinary services, here are some veterinary
clinics and hospitals in the local area, along with their phone
numbers, just in case you need it. Remember, whether you
take your dog to one of these clinics, or any other, always
have the emergency number for your vet available while on
walks with your dog. If you have a cellular phone, saving
your vet’s number in your phone is the best course of action.
Donegal Animal Hospital
366 S Market Ave, Mount Joy, PA 17552 • (717) 653-9396
Companion Animal Hospital
2034 W Main St, Mount Joy, PA 17552 • (717) 361-7665
Hallam Animal Hospital
4322 Lincoln Hwy, York, PA 17406 • (717) 793-2312
Elizabethtown Area Animal Hospital
1096 W Bainbridge St, Elizabethtown, PA 17022
Columbia Animal Hospital
9215 Columbia Ave, Columbia, PA 17512 • (717) 684-2285