Top Ten Tips On Keeping Your Pet Safe In The Desert Heat


Dogs, Cats, Horses and the Desert Heat

There is nothing more heartwarming than seeing a dog following it’s owner, a cat cuddled in someones lap, or a horse nudging it’s master. For centuries, the companionship of these animals have played an instrumental part in what makes the world turn. Be it a guard dog in the Dark Ages, a royally adorned cat in ancient Egypt, or the development of mankind through the help of horses; one cannot deny how special these animals are.

Let’s be honest, who can deny that fuzzy feeling inside when your pet welcomes you when you come home or to their stable. How happy they are when you feed them. When you wake in the wee hours of the morning and they are firmly tucked in next to you (well, not horses). No compromises, no talking back, just unconditional love day and night.

Sadly, it is easy for people to take their pets for granted and forget that the heat of the desert can have disastrous effects. A panting dog, a sweating horse or a cat constantly scratching at fleas, are all signs that something is terribly wrong.

By taking these tips into account and using common sense, your pets will stay safe and cool and you’ll be able to share special moments in the desert climate together. And most importantly, if you have ANY kind of concern about your pet or how certain breeds handle the heat, contact your Veterinarian or Animal Hospital in Palm Springs or Cathedral City.


1) Keep them indoors and out of the sun. If they go outside, make sure they have plenty of fixed shade, good air circulation and lots of fresh water.

2) Keep your cat or dog out of the car. A parked and locked car can get to over 150 degrees inside and will heat up so fast that it can cause brain damage, or death, within minutes. Leave your pet at home or in an air conditioned car during travel when it is 85 degrees or warmer.

3) Keep plenty of fresh, cool, clean water around for them. Use an automatic watering system if you need to. Horses can consume over 25 gallons of water per day when the temperature is above 70°F.

4) Make sure there is fresh air circulation in the house or stable. A/C should come on intermittently to keep the temperature consistent for your indoor pet.

5) Sand fleas carry disease and can affect the health of you pet. Consult with your Cathedral City or Palm Springs Animal Hospital or Veterinarian for proper flea treatment.

6)  Dogs and cats can get sunburned, especially those with short hair on their ears and nose. Keep them out of the sun.

7) Walking or hiking your dog in the summer should only be done very early in the morning or evening. Bring plenty of water and make it an easy hike. Never exercise your dog by having him run alongside your bicycle in the summer.

8) The same goes for horses. Be sure you are near water and don’t overwork them.

9) Dogs in the back of a pickup truck is just a bad idea! Here’s a simple test: Leave your truck in the sun for 20 minutes then touch the metal. If it burns the skin off your body, it will do the same to your dog! (California law requires that dogs in the open back of a pickup to be either in a cage or cross-tied to the truck).

10) If you suspect any kind of Heat Stroke in your pets, immediately call an Animal Hospital or Veterinarian in Palm Springs or Cathedral City – night or day.


The desert heat can be fatal! Dogs and cats with short snouts are extremely susceptible. Early signs of heat exhaustion in cats and dogs include heavy panting or rapid, frantic and noisy breathing, salivation, staggering or difficulty walking, pale or off color lips, bright red tongue, vomiting and diarrhea, possibly with blood. Get your pet out of direct heat, place a wet cool towel over its body, and transport them to a Palm Springs or Cathedral City Animal Hospital immediately.

Common signs of heat stress in horses are profuse sweating, rapid breathing and increased heart rate. Some horses are anhydrotic, which means they have little or no ability to produce sweat and are prime candidates for heat stress.

The fact is, anything that doesn’t look right probably isn’t! Allow your instincts to take control if you suspect that your pet may be susceptible to heat exhaustion and talk to your Cathedral City or Palm Springs Veterinarian.

Afterwards, review why you suspected a problem so it doesn’t happen again.


Cats are more sensitive to heat than humans and other animals. When temperatures climb, they can experience dangerous heat strokes. You’ll notice they groom themselves more in summer. You might even see them panting. Cats cool themselves by rapid breathing and by licking their coats. As the saliva evaporates from their fur it cools them similar to the way sweat evaporates from our skin. This method fails when their air temperature is close to – or exceeds – their body temperature.

Heat exhaustion is common in dogs. It can happen in your yard or on a walk. Dogs cool themselves by panting and sweating lightly through their paws. If panting does not reduce the body temperature they will develop heat stroke. Cooler air is the best way to prevent and relieve overheating.

Overweight and older dogs and cats have more difficulty with the heat. Some breeds have poor panting mechanisms and you should have them checked at your Palm Springs or Cathedral City Veterinarian to see if they are more susceptible to heat. Check to see if trimming (not shaving) their coats will help.

A horse’s body has a natural cooling process. However, extreme heat and humidity can overpower their ability to cool himself and heat production can increase as much as 50% during periods of intense exercise compared with heat production when the horse is at rest. To compensate, the body redistributes blood flow closer to the skin, which aids cooling. However, this mechanism causes internal organs and the brain to receive less oxygen. Add excessive sweating into the mix, which causes a loss of fluids and electrolytes, and the results can be disastrous.

It is important to make sure the horse is properly cooled-down following exercise and work-outs. The built up heat must be released from the horse’s body through respiration and sweat. Heat loss through sweat requires moving air and evaporation.


Summer is the perfect time to own a horse as the show and competition circuit is in full swing. But summer’s hot weather and high humidity pose serious health risks for most horses and ponies. Searing heat and sweltering humidity can be dangerous for horses.

In most cases, horses should be allowed to drink as often as they desire, even during exercise, unless they are showing signs of heat stress. A “hot” horse has the chance to colic if given lots of water while they are hot.

Small amounts of water should be offered to the horse in frequent intervals before, during and after exercise. A simple test to determine marginal water loss is the pinch test. When a section of skin on the neck or shoulder is pinched, the skin recoil will be immediate in hydrated horses. Dehydration will delay skin recoil.

A fifteen minute walk will get his body temperature returning to normal. Loosen the saddle cinch without removing the saddle which allows the air to cool the back slower, and helps to prevent cramps. A horse left to stand after strenuous exercise may experience swelling around the lower leg joints caused by a decrease in circulation. Give him a minimal amount of cool water to drink, wait a few minutes, and then give him some more. Limit his intake of cool water as too much too fast can bring on cramping.

A brisk rub with a towel to dry him is usually sufficient for the warm weather times. If your horse seems to be having a hard time cooling down you can rinse him down with cool water then dry him again.


If your dog loves water, then a large tub or kiddie pool (molded plastic, not inflatable) might be a great addition to your yard. Make sure you supervise your dog at all times. Keep the pool in a shady spot and change the water frequently to prevent mosquitoes from hanging out.

Most dogs love in-ground swimming pools! There are however, safety issues you must consider: Although many dogs love water, don’t assume they can swim. Never throw a dog into the pool as he may panic and might not be able to climb out. Even excellent swimmers gradually lose their ability as they age and become weaker. Senior dogs are more prone to slipping and falling into a pool also. There is a pet safety product called Skamper Ramp which sits on the edge of your pool with a ramp that lies in the water. A trapped animal will be able to climb out of the pool. What a great idea!

When it comes to pool safety, pets should be treated the same as children. Heat and sunlight are more intense around a pool and your dog cannot stay as cool as you, so watch for signs of overheating. An injury to the skin, even something as small as an abrasion, are the perfect place for flies to lay eggs which hatch and become maggots. Talk to your Cathedral City or Palm Springs Veterinarian or Animal Hospital to be sure it is all right for your dog to be in a swimming pool.

Don’t let your dog, cat or horse drink from the pool as the chlorine may make them sick and/or irritate their eyes. Your pet can get sick if he drinks water with algae in it. Some Pool Service Techs feel that if a dog is in the pool, the chlorine needs to be higher. THIS IS WRONG! The chlorine levels should be no different than normal!

You may have to clean your filter twice a month (or more) because of dog hair so keep an eye on your water pressure valve on your pool pump. If it rises 10 PSI after cleaning over the course of a week or two, clean your filter and skimmer twice a month. If you have a Pool Guy, stay on top of him about the chlorine and filter.

And of course, when your dog is finished playing in the pool, hose him down with fresh water to get the chlorine out. Have Fun and Happy Summer!

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  1. Carter Animal Hospital is a caring Palm Springs animal hospital located on Perez om Cathedral City, CA.