Coyotes are a fact of urban life. Here's how to keep pets safe
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Charlotte Zappala was walking her Australian shepherd, Roxie, one morning when a coyote enticed the dog to come play. Roxie, who was off-leash, ran off, right into an ambush. Lucky for her, she escaped only with bites around the eye and on her paw.
Coyotes are no longer a symbol of rural living. They live in America's largest cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, where they make a fine living off garbage, pet food left outdoors, rodents and, yes, dogs and cats.
Coyote attacks on pets, like the one Zappala experienced, usually occur during the wild dogs' courting, mating and pupping season: late fall, winter and early spring. Mating season begins as early as November, with pups on the ground typically between April and June.
Often, an individual's or community's first response to the presence of coyotes is to want to trap and relocate or kill them. While that might be satisfying in the short term to people who fear the animals, it's not a viable or desirable solution, says coyote biologist Jacqueline Frair, Ph.D., of State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. Coyotes have a suite of biological mechanisms that kick in to rapidly grow their populations when they are under threat from hunting or other reduction efforts.
"Studies have shown that when coyote numbers are reduced, a higher proportion of females become pregnant, litter sizes become larger and the offspring of those litters have higher survival rates," Frair says.
What should you do if you are walking your dog and encounter a coyote? A good offense is the best defense, as the saying goes.
If you live in an area where you know there are coyotes, stay alert when walking your dog on- or off-leash.
Carry a walking stick, mace or bear spray that you can use to ward off a coyote that seems menacing. If you use mace or bear spray, be aware of the wind's direction so you don't suffer blowback.
If you don't have any of those items with you, throw rocks or yell at the coyote, and wave your arms or a hat at it. Most coyotes are shy and fearful and will run at any sign of aggression from you.
Stand your ground. Running away will only incite the coyote to chase you and your dog, which is not the reaction you want.
Even if you and your dog don't mean any harm, a coyote will be extra-protective if you and your dog unknowingly come near a den with pups. Be watchful during pupping season.
Other strategies to keep coyotes at bay and pets from becoming prey:
-- Secure garbage cans so that coyotes can't knock them over or knock the lid off.
-- Feed pets indoors or take up food as soon as the animal is finished eating outdoors.
-- Empty outdoor water dishes in the evening.
-- Never offer food to coyotes.
-- Cover or remove other sources of food that could attract coyotes, such as compost heaps, fallen fruit and birdseed spilled from feeders.
-- Install motion-sensitive lighting to startle coyotes that enter the yard.
-- Put up a solid, well-maintained fence at least 6 feet tall. A high fence with a roll bar on top is even better.
-- Even in a fenced yard, accompany small or medium-size dogs outdoors if it's very early in the morning or after dark.
-- Trim shrubbery so it offers little cover.
-- If you see a coyote lurking near your yard, shoo it away.
"Coyotes simply shouldn't learn to get comfortable around us," Frair says.
Dogs benefit from
Q: My Lab was chasing a tennis ball and jumped up to get it. When he landed, he cried out and appeared to be in a lot of pain. The vet says his elbow is really arthritic. What can be done for him? -- via Facebook
A: The elbow is a complex joint, and the canine elbow gets quite a workout because a dog's front legs bear about 60 percent of his body weight. A number of dog breeds, including Labs, can develop elbow dysplasia, an assortment of conditions that can occur when the elbow joint is deformed or doesn't mature properly. Whatever type of elbow dysplasia a dog has, the eventual result is painful and often crippling osteoarthritis. Common signs include limping, tiring quickly from play or reluctance to play.
Depending on the condition that's diagnosed, your dog has a couple of options. He may benefit from arthroscopic surgery if he has osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) or fragmented medial coronoid process (FMCP). It's minimally invasive and involves removing a broken fragment of bone or damaged cartilage. It can improve the condition for a time, but may not be a permanent fix.
A new technique is elbow replacement surgery. The surgery takes two to three hours to complete, and it requires careful attention to detail. A slick new mechanical joint replaces the damaged one. Afterward, the dog may spend five days in the hospital before going home, and require five to six months for complete recovery. The cost is approximately $6,000.
If your dog is not a candidate for surgery, medical management techniques may help reduce pain. They include weight loss, limiting activity, providing pain relief with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and giving nutraceuticals such as glucosamine and chondroitin to protect and build up cartilage. Your dog may also benefit from rehab, such as workouts on an underwater treadmill. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Online scams target
-- Looking online for a pet? Be wary of sellers who ask you to wire money in advance to pay for vaccinations, shipping costs, insurance and taxes. After the money is received, the pet may never arrive. Sellers may claim to be from your area, with a local phone number. If that's truly the case, ask to meet the pet in person before handing over any money. Reputable breeders or legitimate sellers won't balk at a request to visit their home or kennel. It's always best to see a potential pet's environment first or to buy a pet from someone referred to you by a trusted individual.
-- The world's oldest known cat, Tiffany Two, turned 27 on March 13. The San Diego kitty loves to be petted and still has good hearing and vision, although she does suffer from one old-age complaint: high blood pressure. She's also capable of going up and down the stairs in the home of owner Sharon Voorhees, who says: "She's not afraid of anything or anyone. She walks right past the dogs; she's very feisty." Voorhees feeds her orange and black tortoiseshell cat a blend of wet and dry food and lets her go outside when she wants.
-- The Havanese is a fun-loving, cheerful and good-humored dog with a bit of a naughty side. He's mischievous and sometimes difficult to house-train. The small dogs with silky, longhaired coats belong to the bichon family, making them cousins to bichons frise, Maltese, Cotons de Tulear and Bolognese. Unlike those breeds, Havanese may be any color or combination of colors. Be prepared to provide daily brushing and weekly baths if you keep a Havanese in full coat. Purchase a puppy from a breeder who provides certification that both parents have passed a brain stem auditory evoked response (BAER) test for hearing and have eye, hip and patella (knee) clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. -- Kim Campbell Thornton
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: Coyotes are highly protective of pups. Walk your dog on a leash in wooded areas or other places that might be a coyote habitat. Position: Main Story
Caption 02: Be wary of online pet offers. You may not get the pet you expect -- or even receive one at all. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 1