The heat is on! Summer in Arizona can be stifling, but don’t let pet dangers such as heatstroke, monsoon season, and snake bites add to the pressure. Follow our safety tips to ensure you and your pet make it through the summer heat unharmed.
Pets and The Threat of Heatstroke
Heatstroke can occur any time your pet is exposed to excessive heat, which is a possibility during much of the year in the Grand Canyon state. With temperatures reaching well over 100 degrees throughout the summer, pets are in danger of overheating.
Pets release excess body heat mainly by panting, since they have only a few sweat glands in their feet. Any pet can develop heatstroke, although some animals, including brachycephalic breeds with flat faces, such as bulldogs and Boston terriers, are at a higher risk of overheating because they are less efficient at releasing body heat through the mucous membranes of their shorter muzzles. Pets who are older, overweight, or have ongoing medical conditions are also at an increased risk of developing heatstroke. Owners of these pets must be particularly careful to avoid the heat.
Normal body temperature for a dog or cat should not exceed 102 degrees. Pets will display these signs to let you know they are not feeling well due to the heat:
- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling
If you think your pet may have heatstroke, take her inside to a cool area and offer her cool, fresh water to drink. You can cover her body with wet towels, spray her with water, or submerge her in a bathtub of water, but don’t use ice-cold water, as a rapid temperature drop can cause dangerous blood pressure changes. If she does not improve in 10 minutes, take her to a veterinary hospital immediately. Most family veterinarians can treat heatstroke cases, but severe cases may require specialized care or 24-hour monitoring that our team at VetMED can provide.
To prevent heatstroke in your pet, follow these tips:
- Do not leave your pet unattended outside in the heat.
- Provide plenty of fresh, cool water and shade for your pet while outdoors.
- Plan walks and playtime for morning or evening hours, when temperatures are cooler.
- Never leave your pet confined in a car.
Pets and The Dangers of Monsoon Season
Monsoon season peaks in August and brings high winds, heat, flooding, and dust storms. Many pets have storm phobias, and electrical charges in the air, changes in barometric pressure, or storm-related sounds, such as wind, thunder, lightning, and rain, may trigger their anxiety. Fearful pets may tremble, hide, pace, pant, vocalize, or try to escape a crate or room and injure themselves. If your pet is scared during storms, try these tips:
- Distract him from the storm by playing with him or offering a special treat, such as a peanut butter-filled Kong® toy.
- Move to the lowest level of your house and turn up the television or radio to drown out the sound.
- Use a snug-fitting ThunderShirt® to apply calming pressure over your dog’s body, much like swaddling a baby.
- Use pheromone-based sprays, collars, and diffusers, such as Adaptil® and Feliway®, whose calming hormones help relieve pets’ anxiety.
In addition to your pet’s anxiety, severe storms can cause flooding and power outages that could temporarily displace you and your furry friend. Be prepared to leave suddenly by packing a disaster kit that is quickly accessible and contains important items for your pet, including:
- Food and bottled water to last a minimum of five days
- Food and water bowls
- A collar with an identification tag, if your pet does not wear one
- A leash
- A litter box and litter, for cats
- A one-week supply of medications
- Important paperwork, including medical records and phone numbers for your veterinarian and pet-friendly temporary housing locations
Don’t walk your pet through standing or rushing water, as he could be swept away and drown. Never leave your pet outside if you are not home, as downpours and dust storms can develop suddenly, and your pet could be caught in dangerous weather. Keep him inside during dust storms to avoid eye injury and exposure to Valley Fever, a fungal respiratory infection that can be inhaled along with dust particles.
Pets and The Hazards of Hiking
Beautiful deserts and mountains make tempting hiking destinations, but many potential pet dangers lurk in these habitats, including:
- Rattlesnakes — Arizona is home to 18 different species of venomous rattlesnakes, which can bite dogs who explore their environment on the legs or face. Rattlesnake bites must be treated by a veterinarian immediately, as the venom can cause severe illness and death.
- Scorpions — Scorpions hide under rocks and brush, and can give a painful sting to a curious dog who sniffs too closely. Although most scorpions are not venomous, the Arizona bark scorpion can cause illness, heart arrhythmias, and blood pressure changes in dogs.
- Tarantulas — A venomous tarantula bite can be deadly for your pet. Tarantulas also have barbed abdominal hairs they can embed in your dog’s skin and cause significant irritation.
- Gila monsters — Gila monsters are not typically aggressive, but they will bite if they feel threatened by a boisterous or curious dog. They often bite their victim repeatedly to inject more venom, creating a painful wound that must be treated immediately.
- Sonoran Desert toads — Also known as Colorado River toads, these venomous amphibians emerge during monsoon season. They release venom from skin glands that can be life-threatening to pets who lick or sniff them. If your pet has an encounter with a Sonoran Desert toad, immediately flush out the mouth with a hose and seek veterinary attention.
- Coyotes, bears, and bobcats — These mammals are known to attack pets, so be cautious and avoid areas they are known to roam.
If you have questions about safely enjoying the Arizona summer with your pet, contact us or your family veterinarian. We are available 24-hours if you have a pet emergency.