Keep your dog safe from snakes and other critters

Posted on 6/6/2021 by
avatarBecky Lea

Spring has finally sprung, and most pandemic restrictions have been lifted. That means it's time for you and your best pal to get back outside and have some fun.

Perhaps a walk? As you clip on your dog's leash and plan your route, make sure you are prepared for what dangers you might encounter. Michigan might not have Florida's alligators or California's pumas, but there's plenty of ticks, spiders, and snakes that could ruin the day for everyone.

Michigan's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports eighteen species of snakes in The Great Lakes State. Fortunately, only one is venomous, the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake. These snakes are found in just about any environment, from forests to cities. They have small, long bodies, a heart-shaped head, and (squeamish-worthy) vertical pupils. They really like wet areas such as you would find along marshes or other water sources. They hide out under logs or burrows in the ground, so make sure your dog doesn't nose his way into these areas. These rattlers don't bite unless provoked and will typically move away if you approach. Here's where the "Leave it!" training you did at home with your canine will come in handy. If your dog doesn't know that command, here's an easy way to teach him.

Spiders are plentiful in Michigan, and some, including the brown recluse and northern black widow, are poisonous. The brown recluse's body is violin-shaped and dark brown with yellow flecks. According to the DNR, you would normally see brown recluse spiders in Hillsdale, Ingham, Kent, Lenawee, Livingston, Oakland, Shiawassee, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. They are found around rocks and logs and are most active at night.

The northern black widow has an hourglass shape on its underside which is shiny with red spots. Outdoor pros agree that it's the most dangerous animal in the state of Michigan, found in pretty much any county. If a brown recluse or black widow bites you or your dog, seek medical attention immediately.

If snakes and spiders aren't enough to deal with, Michigan offers ticks as well. A friend once told me Michigan is home to so many ticks it seems they're more prevalent than flowers, and she might be close to being right. There are 20 known species of ticks here, primarily found in the upper peninsula in grassy and woodland areas or fields. The brown and deer ticks are most prevalent and should be avoided as they carry nasty stuff, including Lyme Disease, which affects both pets and people.

Learn what you can about any part of nature which flies, slithers, or sucks blood, and you'll be able to keep your dog and yourself safe while having fun in the great outdoors of Michigan. And don't forget the sunscreen. Even northern states can provide nasty sunburns, and you can even find a formulation to protect your canine pal.