Environmental Concerns in Southern Arizona

Native Arizona Animals

Snakes: Snakes are very abundant in deserts of Arizona. The most dangerous is any variety of the rattlesnake. Snakes blend into their environment and enjoy shadier times of the day such as early morning and evening. They are most commonly found in the washes, less populated areas, hidden enclosures, sheds, pool closets, under bushes, construction sites, woodpiles, and any other hidden spot they can find. The best way to keep your pet from snakebite is to attend a snake aversion class. If a snake bites your pet, the immediate area of the bite will begin to swell and become very painful. If you suspect that a snake has bitten your pet, please call your veterinarian immediately. For the best possible outcome antivenin must be given as soon as possible. Snakebite treatment is very expensive and can require several days of hospitalization, so we strongly urge you to ask about a snake aversion class.


Toads: There are several poisonous desert toads that are common to Southern Arizona. The most common is the Colorado River Toad, which is typically a gray to olive green color. During the monsoon season, the river toads become extremely numerous and can be found throughout the valley. They particularly love damp, wet areas, such as freshly watered plants, near pools, and any other outdoor water dishes. Dogs that have been in contact with a toad (or toad infused water source) tend to drool excessively, stumble, and their gums turn bright red. In serious cases they can seizure. The most important first aid is to clean the mouth thoroughly with water for 10-15 minutes. Be cautious to keep the water coming out of your pets mouth, not down its throat or into its lungs. If your dog comes into contact with a toad, please call immediately for further instructions.


Fleas and Ticks: Ticks are abundant in Arizona. Depending on where you live fleas may or may not be a problem. Prevention is always easier than treatment. Please discuss your need of prevention with your veterinarian.

At this point we recommend topical protection as the best way to prevent fleas and ticks. We are investigating new oral flea and tick options, and will update our recommendations as more information becomes available. We carry several topical tick preventions, such as Frontline and Advantix. Please ask which would be the best for your pet at your next visit to your veterinarian.


Scorpions: Scorpions are another common arthropod in Arizona. They can be found in any hidden area. If a scorpion stings your pet, there are often no clinical signs other than pain. Rarely are there any more serious effects. If a scorpion stings your pet, please call your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.


Spiders: Spiders will leave your pet alone until your pet sticks its nose where it does not belong. Spider bites can vary from very mild to extreme reactions. If you notice any suspicious lesions please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately.

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Benadryl is an over-the-counter product you should keep on hand at all times. Most reactions your pet will have will be an allergic reaction and Benadryl will help treat your pet until you can reach our facility. Call your veterinarian immediately for the dosage that is correct for your pet.

Other Common Animals: There are also other common animals to watch out for such as skunks, javelinas, large predator birds and coyotes. They tend to avoid any contact with humans and pets but they are very prominent to this area and they look for water and food wherever it may be. With any wild animal, caution and respect should be used at all times. Many of theses animals have been known to be infected with Rabies, so keeping your animals current on vaccinations is extremely important. Animal Control takes rabies very seriously and if your pet comes into contact with a wild animal severe consequences will occur if your pet is not vaccinated. Even if your pet never goes outside, our staff can give you numerous examples of wild animals coming into your home and the tragedy that follows. If you see a suspicious animal in your neighborhood call Animal Control right away. If you have a small pet (under 25 lbs.) you should be with your pet at all times while outdoors. Hawks, owls, and other large predator birds have been known to grab small animals with the owners standing nearby.

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Heat Stress/Stroke: Heat is the number one most deadly concern in Arizona. With temperatures in the summer reaching 120°F, it is extremely important that your pet be allowed access to water and shade or indoors at all times. NEVER LEAVE YOUR PET IN THE CAR! Your car can reach temperatures of about 200°F, and your pet may not survive.

Hot Pavement: With high temperatures in the summer, the sidewalks and streets absorb the heat, creating a hot, burning walking environment. The pads on your pet’s paws will be burned if they are exposed to the hot pavements for an extended period of time. Choose to walk your pet in cooler times of the day: early mornings, late evenings, or at night. (Be aware that in the summer these are the times snakes become more active. Carry a flashlight and walk on cleared path) If you have to walk during the day, limit the time to 15 minutes or less. Purchasing booties can be another protective option for your pet’s paws. In the winter the heat is not as much of a concern as it is in the summer, nevertheless caution is still required.

Foxtails: Foxtails are seeds of common desert grasses and are found throughout the area. These can become embedded in your dog’s paws or ears. After any walk or time spent outside, you should thoroughly check your dog’s paws to remove any foxtails or other foreign bodies. If foxtails are allowed to stay in the paw a painful abscess can form. If your dog is excessively licking or chewing on his/her paws, it may be a sign that something is stuck in the pads. Thoroughly check the pads, and if the problem persists, schedule an appointment immediately. Keeping your dog’s paws groomed can make your job much easier. If you have any concerns, please raise them at your next scheduled appointment.

Cacti: As you have probably noticed, cactus is very common to Arizona. If your dog is very curious, cactus will be a problem. If your pet comes into contact with cactus you need to remove all thorns immediately before an abscess can form. It is a good idea to have a doctor look and make sure all thorns have been removed.