The heat sure rolled in quickly this year!
OK, a confession: I feel this way every year. If we didn’t have the weather to complain about, we would be miserable! I dread the heat—but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
However, the hot weather poses unique challenges to our pets in the Coachella Valley. I reached out to Kimberly Raney, owner of Vet Tech to You, a new mobile veterinary-technician service, and asked her about the most important things a pet owner should think about in the hotter weather. Four things came to mind, she said: walking on heated surfaces; heat exhaustion; animals in cars; and other animal threats, like coyotes and snakes.
Walking on heated surfaces: Dr. Pia Salk offers a “rule of paw” for judging safe pavement temperatures: Touch any outside surface for seven to eight seconds. If it causes pain, it’s not right for any animal to be on that surface. Sand, rocks, concrete and asphalt can get incredibly hot—at lower outside temperatures than you may expect. Dr. Salk pointed out that asphalt, on a 77-degree, sunny day, can reach surface temperatures as high as 125 degrees. We should also remember that outside air temperatures do not necessarily correlate to outside surface temperatures. Tender paws burn easily, so early mornings are the coolest times to let your pet out or take your pet for a walk.
Heat exhaustion: Do you ever watch your dog or cat lie down on the hot pavement, and think, how can that possibly be good? They do seem to know their limits—but we may not know their limits when we take them out with us for exercise.
Heat exhaustion is very real for dogs, and the signs are easy to observe. According to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, the first sign of heat exhaustion is excessive panting. Panting is the way dogs cool themselves, but excessive panting means danger. Other early signs include lethargy and less responsiveness to commands.
The Humane Society says that potential heat-stroke signs include excessive drooling, glazed eyes, dizziness, a lack of coordination and even a loss of consciousness. If you suspect that your animal has reached this point, cool them down, and call or take them to a vet. Some dogs are more prone to heat exhaustion then others: Puppies and seniors, dogs with flat faces or longer hair, and dogs with medical issues are at a higher risk.
Animals in cars: California Penal Code 597.7 prohibits leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle if, by doing so, you “endanger the health or well-being of the animal.” According to the Shouse California Law Group, the criteria used to determine whether the health and well-being of an animal in a car is endangered include the weather (too hot or too cold), ventilation, whether the animal has food or water, and any other circumstance that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering. In the Coachella Valley, police will come and break a car window to rescue an animal if they believe it is in danger.
The Palm Springs Animal Shelter posts heat warnings at www.psanimalshelter.org/pet-safety, regarding both asphalt and car safety. The information is a matter of life and death. With an outside temperature of 75 degrees, inside a car, it takes 10 minutes to reach 94 degrees, and 30 minutes to reach 104 degrees. At an outside temperature of 95 degrees, it takes a car 10 minutes to get to 114 degrees, and 30 minutes to get to 129 degrees. Leaving an animal in a car during the summer is a death sentence for the animal—and could/should be a jail sentence for the person responsible for that animal.
Coyotes: Almost everyone has seen a coyote in a surprising urban place—in neighborhoods, on roadways and near businesses. The most bizarre place I ever saw a coyote was crossing the street in Orange County at the Brea Mall.
Here in the Coachella Valley, we have a large amount of undeveloped land, and we are surrounded by deserts, mountains and forests. Coyotes hunt small animals—and will kill a cat or a smaller dog for food. Larger dogs are vulnerable between January and March—breeding season, when coyotes may defend their turf.
Leaving your domestic pets outside and not watching them carefully can make them easy prey—and sometimes, even watching them carefully doesn’t help. Coyotes, as sorry as you may feel for them, are natural killers. If they can eat your pets, they won’t hunt. If they aren’t hunting, they are invading civilization, which is dangerous to them.
How do you stop this? Leash your animals. Never let them out alone, regardless of the time of day. Coyotes can jump fences with great ease, walk on walls, climb your roof and even dig under your fence.
Rattlesnakes: I dread this time of year, because rattlesnakes are out; baby rattlers are around; and I live in fear for my pets. We are vigilant about keeping areas clear and watching for snakes carefully.
The Animal Medical Center of Southern California says that dogs are 20 times more likely to be bitten than humans—and 25 times more likely to die if bitten. Dogs are naturally curious and don’t always know to stay away when they see a snake in the wild—especially if your dog likes to play. Rattlesnake-avoidance training is often available through veterinarians and animal shelters.
Never put your pet’s life in jeopardy—even for a minute. You will regret it forever if something happens on your watch. They are your love and your responsibility. Contact animal shelters and veterinarians for information. Be prepared, and treat your pets like the important part of your life that they are.
Carlynne McDonnell is the founder and CEO of Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior animal sanctuary and hospice in the Coachella Valley. She has been rescuing animals since she was 4 years old.