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Keeping Pets Safe in the Heat of Summer

As temperatures rise in the Coachella Valley, pet owners must be aware of situations that are dangerous to their pets. They may think “I’m just running into the post office or gas station for a quick minute” – but unforeseen delays could occur and that “minute” could turn into a timeframe that could jeopardize their pets’ lives very quickly.

Authorities get hundreds of calls every year about pets suffering from heat illness or dying because they were left outdoors, in a vehicle, or in another scenario that put them at risk. Here are some guidelines for pet owners to follow in the hot months here in the desert:

  • Never leave your pet in a car. Don’t leave a pet inside a vehicle – not even with the windows cracked or the air conditioning running. The interior temperature can become deadly within just a couple of minutes. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die. Furthermore, it’s against the law. California prohibits leaving or confining an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal, such as heat.
  • Limit exercise on hot days. When there are excessive heat warnings, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours before the sun rises or as it is setting. Be especially careful with short-nosed pets, who typically have difficulty breathing. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet's paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible. Always carry water with you to keep your dog from dehydrating.
  • Provide shade and keep them hydrated. Pets should remain indoors during the extremely hot months, however; if they must be outside, be sure they have plenty of shade and access to cold water -- adding ice periodically. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don't obstruct air flow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat—in fact, it makes it worse. Watch for signs of heatstroke including heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure and unconsciousness.
  • Keep pets out of direct sun, even if they like to swim. Pets who have recently received short haircuts may become sunburn victims as they are as susceptible to heat stress. Pink-nosed pets can get badly sunburned on noses and ears, which can make them more prone to skin cancer. Dogs can get sunburned on their bellies and inside of their hind legs when sunlight reflects off of sand or water like the pool or ocean. Check with your vet for a pet-safe sunscreen.

Take extra care with your pets this summer – they count on their human caretakers for their safety!