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.
If you have a dog with sensitive skin or a predisposition to skin conditions, you may have fallen into this circular trap – you need to bathe him more often because of the condition but the more you bathe him, the worse his skin condition seems to get. That’s because a regular dog bath can exacerbate his problem. Dogs with acute allergies or a propensity for other skin conditions need special care when receiving a bath.
Symptoms and Causes
In many cases, you will know if your dog is suffering from a skin condition simply by looking. Excess hair loss or bald spots are an indication of a problem, as are dry, flaky patches, scabs or rashes, lumps and bumps or anything out of the ordinary. If there are no visual indications, but you notice your dog chewing, scratching or licking himself excessively, then a skin condition may be the issue and you should make an appointment with your veterinarian to determine the cause of the skin condition and the best treatment plan.
A variety of things can cause skin conditions for dogs. The most obvious reason is fleas and/or an allergic reaction to them. Other external parasites could also be the culprit. It could be a result of an infection, hormonal or metabolic issues, allergies, yeast overgrowth, stress and boredom, or even a reaction to the shampoo or grooming products you are currently using on your pet.
Dermatitis is a condition that causes the skin to become inflamed. Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that causes an allergic reaction to the skin. At one time it was referred to as allergic inhalant dermatitis. It’s one of the most common skin diseases found in dogs and cats.
To soothe their itchy skin, a pet dealing with this condition will scratch and search out furniture or other things to rub up against in an effort to easy their itch. Over time, the scratching and rubbing can lead to injuries to the skin which can make it easier for other secondary infections to enter the body. It can become a vicious circle that makes a pet feel miserable.
Proteins found in the environment likely enter the body through direct contact with the skin, absorbed through the paw pads or inhaled, and possibly ingested. These proteins are called allergens once they produce an allergic response. Atopic dermatitis, also known as atopy, is an allergic reaction to common and normally harmless allergens like house dust mites, house dust, grass, ragweed, trees, mold, pollen, insect proteins, animal dander or other allergens found in the environment. Human skin or natural fibers can also be a culprit.
As our pets age, many are likely to develop arthritis. Their joints take a beating over the years, but even younger dogs and cats can develop this debilitating ailment. Injuries, stress on joints, repeated joint trauma, infection, tick borne disease, metabolic diseases, genetics, aging and obesity are all factors that can contribute to the development of arthritis, which can have an impact on a pet’s quality of life. Knowing the symptoms of arthritis is critical to catching it in the early stages so you can slow down the degenerative progression to joints.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease and rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that attacks the joints. Both cause stiffness and can make it more difficult for a pet to move around. Cartilage is a cushion (shock absorber) between joints that helps to protect the bones. As arthritis progresses, it slowly wears away the cartilage leaving affected joint bones with nothing between them. If the protective cartilage is gone, the bones rub together, causing pain and swollen joints that lead to stiffness and lameness. Because cats are experts at hiding pain, symptoms are harder to see in felines. However, you may notice a high perch she usually makes in one jump may take more than one.
It may not seem like there would be a problem using dog products on cats, or vice versa. If a shampoo or skin medication is safe for dogs, it should be alright to use on cats as well – right? Not always. Some products can be interchangeable, but it depends on the product. It’s important to read labels to make sure it can safely be used on both species.
Flea and Tick Control
If you have both dogs and cats in your home, it’s essential to use only flea control formulated for each species. It might be tempting for people with multiple cats to use a dose of flea control for large dogs and divide it as evenly as possible between their cats. However, that can have life threatening consequences. Never use a flea control made only for dogs on cats. The physiologies of dogs and cats are different, and using flea control made for dogs can be lethal for cats. A feline’s metabolism is more sensitive than a dog’s, and even allowing your cat to have close contact with or groom a dog that has recently been treated with flea control can be harmful for kitties. It’s extremely important to carefully read the label before using. If a flea control is safe for cats, it will say so on the label. If in doubt, don’t use that product on your cat.
Dogs can have an allergic reaction or ongoing allergies caused by a variety of things including food, fabrics, cleansers, shampoos and detergents, and bites from fleas. The symptoms of dog allergies can vary depending on the cause. It can take some detective work to ferret out the offender that causes the allergic reaction. Sometimes the cause is obvious and other times you may have to use the process of elimination or get the advice of your vet who can help to treat the allergies and their symptoms when they are severe or do not go away.
Allergies can make your dog very uncomfortable and cause a great deal of distress. If you were having difficulty breathing, or itching and scratching all the time, you would react the same way. Your dog can’t tell you what the problem is, so that is when you as their companion have to discover and solve their allergy issues.
An allergic reaction is the body telling itself that something dangerous is present and trying to ward off that offender. Some dogs will have no reaction whatsoever to something that may give another dog a severe reaction. Like us, dogs are individuals and their bodies handle things differently.
Some of the same allergens that affect humans can bother your dog as well. If you notice your dog sneezing or they have developed a chronic cough, it’s a good idea to pay attention to what is around them when they are having the worst reactions. It may be ongoing or may be acute and only occur when they are exposed to a specific allergen. For instance, dogs can be allergic to cigarette smoke the same way humans can. Scents can also set off an allergic reaction. Chemicals we use for cleaning or even perfumes can irritate your dog and make them sneeze or cough.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.