Living in any hot weather climate with your dog or cat means taking extra precautions during the worst of the heat, but living in the desert brings additional concerns for their safety. Here are a few tips to help keep your pets safer in that type of climate and terrain.
Wildlife and Vegetation
The desert has wildlife and vegetation that can be dangerous to a curious pet. Some stay away from roaming creatures and the tough prickly vegetation native to the desert, but simple curiosity in desert terrain means exposure to these possible dangers. Pets do not necessarily know what is or isn’t dangerous for them, particularly if the desert is not something your dog or cat has been exposed to.
The sharp thorns of a cactus or succulent can cut or pierce the skin, paws or mouths of an overly curious pet. Creatures such as poisonous snakes or crawling scorpions are among the natural desert inhabitants that can make your dog or cat very ill or even kill them. If possible, keep a safe area enclosed in your yard for your dog and cat. If you can’t do that, or are out walking or playing with your pets, keep a sharp eye out for what they are getting into or examining. Eventually they will learn some of what is dangerous or painful, but you don’t want to chance it by not paying attention to the possible hazards.
Heat, Sun and Cold
Heat and sunshine can reach extremes in the worst heat of the desert. If your pet spends a great deal of time outside, be sure to have an area that provides shade from the sun and is ventilated. Dogs and cats can get sunburn and heat stroke. Make sure they are hydrated and keep fresh bowls of water both inside and outside where they can get to them easily.
The desert is not always raging hot. It can actually get cold some months of the year and at night. There are deserts that can even get snow. Learn about the temperature ranges and weather in your particular desert area and plan for your dog or cat accordingly.
When you take your dog for a walk on the hot sand, sidewalks or roads, their paws can burn, particularly in the worst heat of the day. One place dogs do sweat from are the bottoms of their paws, which help regulate their body temperature. If your feet are too sensitive to walk on the sand or pavement without shoes, chances are it may be too hot for your dog as well.
Walk in the cooler times of the day, or invest in a pair of good booties for your dog’s feet that are thick enough to provide protection. Even those may not do the job though if they are not created to handle the high temperature that the ground can reach in very hot weather. Their paws can dry up and crack or even burn from constant exposure to the extremes.
Before you rush to shave your dog’s fur to keep her cooler in the heat, make sure you check to see if you might be doing more damage than good for your particular breed. Coats vary from one type of dog to another. Double coated dogs, for instance, are actually insulated by the extra coat which keeps their skin cooler. Also, when you remove their coat or part of it, their skin is more susceptible to sunburn. Check with your vet or a knowledgeable groomer before you rush to keep your pet cool by shaving or trimming too much hair.
In any place where the weather is hot, the inside of a car can reach extreme temperatures, even in the shade. You don’t leave children in a hot car, so don’t leave your dog or cat there either. They have no way of getting out if the car reaches unbearable temperatures and they are in distress. The temperature can get hot enough in a car in the heat to kill your beloved pet. The metal in the back of a pickup truck can also burn your dog’s paws even though the dog is getting ventilation. It heats up quickly in the sun.
Although the desert is usually hot and dry, when the rains do come to some deserts, they can be hard and fast, causing flash floods. Some are intense enough to pull an animal along into rushing water. Storms can also bring lightning. If you know a storm is approaching, bring your pets inside. If they are afraid and try to run away or hide when the storm hits, reassure them and give them a few CANIDAE treats to show them they will be alright.
Body Language and Communication
Pay attention to how your cat or dog is behaving. They can’t tell you how they feel, but their body language and vocalization – or lack of it – may tell you when something is wrong. If they are showing any signs of pain or discomfort, such as excessive panting, whimpering, limping, mewing or abnormal behavior, remove them from the heat, give them fresh cool water and treat any injuries.
Use the same common sense you do for yourself and human family members to help your dog or cat handle living in the desert.
Read more articles by Laurie Darroch