Seven Potential Hazards of Living Homeless with Your Dog
By Olivia Harper
When I became homeless, it wasn’t because I was a bad person, neither was my furry friend. During a time where I had never felt more alone and lost, my dog helped me push on to keep going because I knew being homeless wasn’t just my problem. Deciding to keep my dog with me instead of putting them into an animal shelter was a hard decision. I knew that there would be just as many dangers outside for him as there were for me, but with sometimes year-long waiting lists for no-kill shelters I knew that it was the best option for my best friend.
With more than half a million homeless people in the United States, I knew that I wasn’t the only one trying to take care of my furry friend and I needed to be aware of what I needed to know to keep him safe.
Drinking From Puddles
Jumping in puddles is a fun activity for kids and dogs, but they are potentially filled with bacteria, parasites, and toxins like anti-freeze. Your dog doesn’t know about these dangers so it’s important to steer them away from puddles and make sure they have a clean source of water to drink from whenever they are thirsty. They make pop out dog bowls that you can put down so you can share water from your bottle or canteen.
Eating From Dumpsters
Dumpster diving is pretty much a right of passage when it comes to finding food while you’re homeless, but dogs need to be just as careful about what they as eat as humans do. They are susceptible to food poisoning and parasites just like humans. In addition, they can easily cut themselves on broken glass and sharp edges on cans.
Ticks and Other Critters
Ticks and other critters can carry a host of disease like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease, they can also be very uncomfortable even if they aren’t spreading disease. Even though money is tight, investing in a prevention method like a collar or medication could help to keep your good boy healthy. Prevention isn’t enough sometimes though, so if you have to trek through an area where critters lurk it’s a good idea to check them thoroughly for any hitchhikers.
Exposure to the Elements
It’s important for humans to protect themselves from the heat and the cold when they become homeless, and dogs need help too. While that fur coat might help them a bit in the winter, they may need some extra protection as well with clothes and blankets. Hypothermia is a serious problem for dogs who are living outside and so is frostbite. Their paws are at risk in particular and booties can help save them from the painful condition.
They’re at risk during the warmer seasons as well, even with all that fur they can still get a painful sunburn. Areas like their nose, ears, and tail are very susceptible to sunburn and need to be protected. They do make sunblock for dogs that are easy to apply, light protective gear like a t-shirt can be used on shorter hair dogs whose skin is exposed to the sun. It’s important to try to keep them in the shade as much as possible as well as keeping them hydrated with cool water.
Snakes are always a danger for dogs, but they aren’t exposed to them as much in a home. When you are outside, it’s important for their owner to take precautions and avoid the slithering serpents. Even if they come across a non-venomous variety, they are more prone to infection from a bite when they are living outdoors. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid them as much as possible.
Cars and Other Vehicles
Being homeless isn’t just walking through the woods; you and your pal are going to come across a lot of traffic as well. Keep a close eye on your pal in areas where you will come in contact with motor vehicles. While you may not have to keep your friend on a leash all the time, it’s important to do so when there is traffic. Even if your dog isn’t one to chase cars, they could be one to chase a squirrel or other animal if they see them across the road.
Leashes are a great way to avoid some of the hazards that come with being homeless, but some options are better than others. It’s important to remember that in the end, retractable leashes are just a thin cord that can easily break or become detached. This is more likely to happen with larger dogs and the heavy use that comes with being homeless. If this happens, your dog is in danger from traffic and other dangers outside. A broken leash also makes it impossible to protect other animals and people from your dog, a well-behaved dog can still get overexcited or territorial.
If the leash doesn’t break, the almost 30 feet of cord can be just as dangerous. Your pet can easily become entangled which can lead to broken bones, lacerations, or even being strangled. Retractable leashes also make it harder to control your dog than a typical 6-foot leash, and keeping control of your pet is extremely important in public. It can be just as hard to protect your dog and others if they’re several yards away as it would be if they were off of their leash completely.
It’s difficult to control just how much force will be used when this happens. There have been cases of severe injuries and even deaths resulting from the fast jerking motion of retracting the leash. Overall, it’s best to choose a thicker, shorter leash that leaves a shorter distance between you and your pal.