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There are a handful of vitally important conditions to know about to keep your dogs safe in our desert wilds, climates and on our burning hot streets.
Heat and Paws
The pads on dogs' feet are very sensitive. When temperatures soar, cement sidewalks heat up approximately 50 degrees hotter than the air temp. Arizona and New Mexico have the hottest sun and UV rays in the United States.
If you see your dog hopping or doing anything akin to what locals call “the cat dance,” or “the too hot to trot dance,” it means your dog’s feet are burning. Dog owners should stay aware of changing ground temperatures. Even in parking lots, whether sand, dirt or asphalt, the scorching ground can damage your dog’s feet.
Veterinarians recommend that anyone with dogs in The Great Southwest during hot weather have them wear Paw Booties, especially when on sidewalks. Some dog booties are even very fashionable. Wearing dog shoes is particularly important for small dogs and puppies. There are also preventative stick-ons for only the bottom of your dog’s paws. No dogs like booties, but they will adapt to them with only a bit of patient training.
Parking lots hold a second danger. Any open space can have a carpet of nasty thorns that have flown there from our intense spring winds. There are countless cactus stickers that are so tiny they are nearly invisible. If even one of these thorns gets caught between your dog’s toes it will be excruciating for them. Vets suggest carrying tweezers or pliers in case you need to remove stickers. Check in-between your dog’s toes as well as their pads after any outdoor activity.
Dogs in cars
Dogs should never be left alone in cars on hot days. Cars heat up quickly. If it is 80 degrees outside, the average car heats to 99 degrees in 10 minutes and rises to 114 degrees in 30 minutes. When the outside temp is 85, the inside of a car soars to 104 degrees in 10 minutes and to 119 after 30 minutes. Imagine if it is one of our common 90- to-100-degree days.
Veterinarians emphatically warn to never leave pets in a car in any outside temp above 60 degrees. If your dog's body temp goes to 104 or higher, they will be in immediate danger of a life-threatening heat stroke.
Leash your dog
If you are hiking one of our woodsy, desert or river trails, regardless of how close to town (meaning Silver City), or even if you are merely in a friend’s backyard, there are many reasons to keep your dog leashed or very close to your side.
Wild animals commonly wander into downtown Silver City as well as wandering the rural areas. Grant County has poisonous snakes, fire ants, coyotes, mountain lions, bears, foxes and javelina. There is valley fever in the soil and hantavirus carried by rodents, usually left in urine with its alluring smell to exploring dogs. Foxes, skunks and raccoons carry rabies. Quite recently a mountain lion in the Mimbres Valley tested positive for rabies.
Many resident pet owners have had the common experience of having their dog prancing only a few feet away and suddenly their dog is nose to nose with a rattlesnake. The beautifully colored, black, red and yellow coral snake also makes his home here, usually hidden in thick brush. Coral snakes have the most potent, deadly venom of any snake in the USA. Certainly, that’s the last snake you want your dog chasing after hearing some rustling along your walk. As for our many other very ecologically helpful, non-poisonous snakes, large to small— they all bite.
More wild animal info
This month, Silver City is abuzz with numerous incidents of dogs being attacked and killed by mountain lions in our backyards. Because of the recent Black Fire, mountain lions, as well as other wildlife, are roaming outside of their normal range, coming into Silver City with much more frequency than normal. Animals escaping the forest fires are on the hunt for food, shelter and water.
Wild animals will continue to wander far out of their normal boundaries long after the Black Fire is extinguished. Their homes and food have been destroyed over vast territories. They are hungry, thirsty, afraid and desperately fighting to stay alive. Encounters can be dangerous. Pet owners should remain extra cautious this summer and throughout the coming year. From our downtown art galleries to the many, magical forest trails, may all visiting four-leggeds and their owners have wonderful and safe adventures.