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Desert Hazards for Dogs

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The desert is a fascinating landscape to explore, but it can pose some special dangers for dogs. With a little preparation and awareness, you can be on the lookout for these hazards and steer your dog clear, so you can both enjoy a safe desert camping trip. Bring plenty of water, rest in the shade when you can, and have a great trip to the desert!

Heat and Dehydration
Dogs and cats overheat more easily than people do. Where we have sweat glands to cool ourselves, dogs and cats only sweat from their noses and foot pads. And since the rest of their bodies are covered in fur, heat can be a real problem. Puppies, older pets, and short-nosed breeds (pugs, bulldogs, boxers, and Persian cats) are especially susceptible to heat-related stress.

The best way to keep your pet cool is to give it plenty of water and let it rest in the shade during the heat of the day. Long- and medium-haired pets should never go to the desert during the summer and other warm months -- it's simply too hot for them. Even if you're visiting the desert in the winter, the air is still quite dry, so be sure to offer your pet plenty of water.

Cacti and Other Pricklies
Barrel cactus and other cacti that grow on the ground can be a real problem for pets and people alike. But where human feet are usually protected by boots, pets have exposed pads that can pick up cactus spines in a flash. Never let your pet walk across a bed of cacti. You should also be alert for porcupine spines and other prickly burr-bearing plants.

Scorpions are another desert hazard. Generally, scorpions are found in dark crevices in rock. They're hard to find, and many people visit deserts every year without ever seeing one. Your dog, however, is curious and led by smell, so it may inadvertently put its nose in a scorpion hole. Stay vigilant and keep your dog away from these places! If you think your dog has been stung by a scorpion, take it out of the area and to a vet's office immediately.

Flash Floods
This is a danger for people as well as pets. In the desert, when it rains it tends to rain big. Because the ground is unaccustomed to precipitation, it doesn't absorb the rainwater well and all the excess water runs off. This water channels into ravines, pours into streams, dry creek beds, and rivers, and can mount into a serious flood in a hurry. If you're ever camping with your dog in the desert and it starts to rain, make sure your campsite is on high ground, far from any rivers and dry washes. If you must, pack up your camp and move it to higher ground. Flash floods are as fast as their name implies, and it's always better to be safe than sorry.
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