Pets in the Desert! Arizona is a wonderful place to live! The air is dry, the visibility is for miles, and the sun almost always shines on our lives.
There are some inherent dangers for our pets living in the desert; some of these dangers are:
1. Snakes There are many species of snakes in southern Arizona and a significant minority of them are venomous. Rattlesnake bites can be fatal and there is no home treatment for these encounters. Here are some basic tips should your four-legged friend encounter a rattlesnake:
Keep your pet calm Raise your pets heart above the level of the bite if possible Call ****** Animal Hospital, and inform them that you are coming.
Do not try and extract the venom yourself Do not apply a tourniquet Do not apply ice Do not attempt to clean/shave the area, as this will cause added stress to your pet and could lead to increased damage to your pets internal organs from the snake's venom. 2. Colorado River Toads These toads are mostly active around the monsoon seasons of mid-summer to early fall. They secrete a toxin on their skin that acts as an irritant to your pets' mouth, and possess a second toxin similar to D-Lysergic acid (LSD). Pets are most often intoxicated by mouthing the toad or ingesting it. If you see your pet mouthing a toad, immediately begin rinsing their mouth with water. Rinse their mouth from back to front so they do not choke or accidentally swallow the water. Do this for 3-5 minutes and call ****** Animal Hospital.
If the dog ingests (swallows) the Toad call ******* Animal Hospital immediately as drugs to counteract the acid must be administered at once.
3. Valley Fever aka Coccidioidomycosis Coccidioidomycosis is caused by a fungus that lives in the soil in the arid southwest. These fungal elements are picked up in the air by winds and have exposed all mammals in our region, regardless of indoor or outdoor status. This disease is both epidemic in and endemic to the Sonoran Desert and the southwestern United States where the soil is alkaline and the environment is arid. The infectious spores in the air or soil are inhaled by mammals and can damage virtually all organ systems in the body. Animals may clear the disease without treatment, or it may become disseminated (spread throughout the body). The disease requires long-term treatment which can can range anywhere from a few months to life (depending upon the animals resolve to medication and condition prior to diagnosis). Coccidiodomycosis is not infectious between animals, animals to humans, or even between human to humans unless skin lesions form which causes infected spores to shed from the site of the lesion. Newcomers to this area are at a higher risk of infection although residents can be affected. General signs and symptoms of this disease range from a dry hacking cough, lameness, a general malaise and lack of appetite. Seizures can be seen as the first sign of disease; all symptomology depends on the organs and systems affected. This disease requires a blood test for diagnosis.
For the most current information & research visit:
4. Bug Bites/Stings Scorpions There are a number of different species of scorpions in our area. Most scorpions only deliver a very painful, but relatively harmless sting. Some scorpion stings can cause very serious envenomation affecting the nervous system and can cause death, especially to a very young, very old, allergic, or currently ill pet. Bees and Ants There are various insects here in the southwest. These include ants, fire ants, bees, hornets and wasps. The most common place your pet would be affected would be the head (as in a bee sting) or around/between the paws (for ant bites). Signs of a sting/bite include redness and inflammation to the affected area. The severity of a sting or bite can vary depending on how much venom has entered your pet's bloodstream.
Many envenomations from insects will lead to a facial swelling or edema regardless of where the patient was stung. If you suspect your pet has been bitten/stung be sure to monitor your pet for any unusual swelling and or abnormal behavior, and if seen notify your vet at once.
5. Cactus In the southwestern U.S. it's hard to miss cactus. There are many kinds of cactus ranging in size, shapes and lengths. Pets can get cactus spines in their feet, nose, eyes or anywhere else on their bodies. If you see cactus quills, and your pet will allow it, try pulling it out using tweezers, pliers, or two credit cards, I always carry a comb to help flick the Cholla type out. If the animal won't allow it call your vet. If the spine goes unnoticed it can become deeply embedded and migrate into the skin and underlying tissue, causing inflammation, possible infection and in extreme cases abscess formation, so a general antibiotic may be prescribed for any cactus trauma to prevent these potential happenings.
6. Heatstroke aka Hyperthermia HEAT KILLS !!! Do not leave your pets in cars for even a minute if it is over 80°F. Even with the windows rolled down, the temperarature can quickly climb up to over 150°F. Dogs and cats are inefficient at cooling their bodies and must do so by panting -- this raises the humidity in the car and makes the situation even worse. (It is against the law to leave an animal in a car in Arizona). If your "friends" are housed outside, make sure your pet has access to plenty of clean water and hard shade. Better yet, leave them inside in the air conditioning, especially if you are going to be away from home for an extended period of time. In addition, hot pavement can burn your pet's feet, so make sure not to walk them on pavement during the heat of the day. If left too long heatstroke can cause neurological damage or death. If you suspect your pet has heatstroke follow these steps:
Remove your pet from the hot area immediately Wet your pet down with lukewarm to cool water Do not use cold/ice water, as this may cause hypothermia Do not let your pet over-drink water as this may more complications. Call ******* Animal Hospital... ASAP Even if the pet appears to be recovering, take him to your veterinarian. He should still be examined since dehydration or other complications (such as internal organ damage) could be present. 7. Wild Animals There are coyotes, cougars, bobcats, wildcats, hawks, owls and javelina sharing our space. All of these animals can attack and even kill small to large dogs and cats. Do not allow your pet to run loose, especially in the evening/night since these times are when predators are most active.
Attempt to make your yard animal proof. Do not allow your de-clawed cats to run outside unattended as they have had a major defense/escape mechanism permanently removed and are "easy prey". The desert is a beautiful place to live; however, there are many dangers you must be aware of for the health and happiness of your pet. The key thing to remember and abide by is that the desert was the home for all of these wild animals and species far before we collectively made the desert our home. These "pests" are not malicious or vengeful and do not mean to cause problems or unrest among us; they are just doing the job they have been environmentally and genetically programmed to do.
They are not the intruders, we are. To that end, when paths cross, have the respect for them deserved and please do not be vengeful or malicious toward them as they make their desert our desert. If things do become bad for our own domesticated friends, your vet is there to help.
This information is meant as a guide, if you have questions or concerns regarding anything printed here, contact your vet. If you are new to the area, and don't yet have a vet, give us a call and we can recommend one for you.