What Veterinarians Should Know About Coyote Attacks

Note: We first published this information in November of 2015. As we continue to see more coyote attack victims in our emergency room, it is more important than ever to share this information.

By Jennifer Herring, DVM, MS, DACVECC – Urban coyote attacks are a growing concern in the Chicago area. Small breed attacks are generally more common and are more often fatal, depending on the nature of the injury. Dogs and cats are mostly attacked during the winter months rather than during the spring and summer, which corresponds to the breeding season of the coyote. Protecting our pets from injury is critical to reducing morbidity and mortality associated with these attacks. Some of our recommendations for clients to protect their pet from coyotes include the following:

  • Don’t let your pet run loose – Many coyote attacks happen when a pet is unattended in their yard or running loose in a forest preserve or other outdoor location. Keep your pet on a short leash (10 feet or less) to protect your pet and to keep the situation under control.
  • Don’t let your pet out alone after dark – Urban coyotes are nocturnal creatures. If your pet must go out at night, make sure that they are always attended to and leashed. Make sure you have a flashlight when walking with your dog.
  • Make sure your yard is safe – If you have an invisible fence, your pet is not safe because it keeps your pet in and lets other predators into the yard. Since coyotes have been known to scale 6-foot fences, you should stay with your dog even if you have a fence.
  • Exhibit caution if you see a coyote – If a coyote approaches you, make noise, wave your arms and/or throw something to scare it away. Do not turn your back or run from a coyote.
  • Make sure no one in your neighborhood is attracting coyotes – Leaving food outdoors for human or pet consumption can attract coyotes to your area.

As part of our commitment to improving animal health, we are following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Illinois Department of Public Health recommendations for vaccination of exposed animals. Any dog or cat that is current on vaccinations will be revaccinated immediately, kept under the owner’s control, and observed for 45 days. If any illness occurs during that period, it will be immediately reported to our local health department.

Unvaccinated dogs and cats exposed to a potentially rabid animal should be placed in strict isolation for 6 months with a rabies vaccination administered to the animal upon entry into isolation. Animals that have expired vaccinations should be evaluated on the severity of exposure, the time elapsed since last vaccination, number of previous vaccinations, current health status, and local rabies epidemiologic factors to determine the need for euthanasia or immediate revaccination and observation with isolation.

Based on these recommendations, Veterinary Specialty Center will be carrying rabies boosters, only to be used for patients that are victims of a coyote or other potentially rabid wild animal attacks. These pets should still receive their yearly vaccinations with their primary care veterinarian on schedule.

Dr. Jennifer Herring is an Emergency and Critical Care Specialist at Veterinary Specialty Center. She heads our Emergency and Critical Care Department and our rotating internship program. Under Dr. Herring VSC has been certified a Level 1 Trauma Center. Prior to working at VSC she was at the University of Tennessee where she followed her other passion – teaching – and helped the University launch an Emergency and Critical Care Department at their specialty practice. She had been an emergency room veterinarian at VSC prior to returning to the University of Illinois for her residency.

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