Desert Can Pose Dangers to Our Pets

With the warmer temperatures, many of us head outdoors to take advantage of the nice weather and the beautiful landscape around us. Naturally, we often include our pets – especially dogs – in our adventures! It’s important that during these visits to the great outdoors, that we be mindful of our pets’ comfort and safety.

Taking our pets for walks is probably the #1 activity we participate in with our dogs. It’s a healthy pursuit for us, and man’s best friend. But are we being cautious to keep our pets’ well being in mind? Have we considered where and how we recreate with our animals? Lots of us are used to walking our dogs in the desert areas surrounding Boulder City, often off leash, and as the pictures above show, this can be a dangerous thing to do. We are responsible for rescuing our pets from these situations so being prepared is vital.

Many of us recall the poor pupper in the first photo. She was walking with her family in the Bootleg Canyon area and became frightened and ran off. Fortunately our wonderful officers at the Boulder City Animal Control were able to pick her up after observant residents spotted her, but not before she had suffered significant injuries. She was covered in cactus spines and her status was touch-and-go for several hours as a local veterinarian worked to remove the painful spines and glochids from her body. If your pet should have such an encounter, it’s recommended that you take them to their veterinarian for treatment. Between the removal of the foreign bodies plus follow up care, it can easily run into the thousands of dollars.

The next photo on the upper right shows us what happens when we walk our dogs on hot concrete and pavement (or even super hot sand and rock areas). This poor pet suffered severe burns to the pads of their paws while being walked by a neglectful owner. You often won’t see the damage right away and your pet may not show any discomfort during the walk. But a few hours later, the blistering and sloughing begins and your dog is in for some painful days ahead. You may notice your pet licking his or her paws, walking with pain and general discomfort. Again, it’s recommended that you seek veterinary care for your dog with burns. Applying home treatments or internet remedies may do more harm than good so it’s best to get a professional opinion about how to proceed.

The last photograph depicts something we all fear: a venomous bite from a nope rope (snake)! This can be the most dire of all situations our pets will face in the desert. When we allow our dogs off leash, they can encounter our local desert dwellers. Snakes, of course, when startled or threatened, are likely to strike and many times those bites occur to the face, which is very serious. While some older snakes may just “dry bite” (release little to no venom when striking), younger snakes are more likely to give our furry friends a full dose of venom. Either situation is an emergency and must be evaluated by a veterinarian to determine the best course of action to ensure the survival of your animal. It will be an extremely expensive treatment if antivenom is needed. Treatments for venomous bites take several days to complete and often require multiple vials of antivenom per treatment at $600-$1000 per vial.

We recently spoke with Ann Inabnitt, Animal Control Supervisor about desert safety and pets. She said to remember these things if you insist on walking your dog in the desert:

  1. Never walk your dog further than you can carry them. Should your animal become injured, it may be necessary for you to carry them to safety. Ensure you can do so before heading out.
  2. Time is not your friend. Make sure you have your regular veterinarian and an emergency veterinarian phone number in your phone. This will be helpful if your dog is injured during your time outdoors. Being able to contact a qualified professional could mean the difference between life and death for your pet.
  3. Reconsider allowing your dog off leash in the desert. There are a number of unknown variables that could cause injury to your pet, not the least of which are other animals, both wild and domestic.

Something else to consider if you have a smaller pet is the numerous birds of prey who may look at your dog, cat, rabbit, chicken, etc as a snack. Sadly, several local pets are lost each year to birds of prey like falcons and horned owls. It does seem preposterous to think of a bird carrying off your pets, but it happens. If you allow your pets outside, be aware of flying predators who may be targeting your animal. It’s best not to leave them unsupervised in an open area. Cover dog runs, cat condos and chicken coops so that they are not accessible to overhead threats.

Lastly, we are all aware that coyotes frequent neighborhood areas. This is another potential deadly interaction, particularly for small pets. Follow the same advice when keeping animals outdoors. The chances of encountering a coyote out during a walk is less likely, but still a possibility. If your animal is off leash, the chances for a bad encounter with local wildlife is increased.

We hope these tips are helpful and pet owners will take them to heart to safeguard their animals from danger.

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