First Regional Animal Hospital FIRST Regional
Animal Hospital

Chandler, AZ
(480) 732–0018
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New to Arizona? Back to the Pet Resources page >>

Is the Arizona heat really all that dangerous for pets?
It can be. Phoenix in the summer often has daytime temperatures above 110°F (43°C). With the summer monsoons, the humidity can also rise. This combination can be deadly.

Outdoor pets must have fresh water and shade. Do not walk pets on hot days. Pick a cool morning instead and consider wetting down their hair coat first. Do NOT leave pets in parked cars, even with the windows cracked. Heatstroke is common in large dogs exercised on hot days or pets left in parked cars, and it is often fatal. Be careful in our heat!

Heatstroke occurs when the body temperature rises 5–10 degrees (or more!) above normal. Vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma and death can occur within minutes. If you suspect heatstroke, apply cool water to the entire animal and call a veterinarian immediately.

Are snakes, scorpions and Gila monsters a problem?
Of the three, Gila monsters are the least likely to cause a problem. They are not very common, nor very poisonous, and they are quite slow. Most pets will easily get out of their way.

Snakes (specifically rattlesnakes) are a common problem in the “Valley of the Sun.” Pets can die from snakebites, so medical care must be sought immediately. Snakebites are most common in the spring and early summer around the mountain foothills. The pet will develop a very swollen area (often the head or leg) where it was bitten. Rattlesnake venom can also adversely affect blood clotting abilities. Plus the wounds frequently become infected–a nasty combination!

Scorpions are generally just a nuisance, but on small pets like cats or ferrets, their sting can be fatal. Commercial exterminators can help eliminate them. If you suspect a scorpion sting, contact your veterinarian.

Doesn’t all that cactus pose a danger?
Yes, many Arizona plants have thorns and any thorn can damage an eye. Pets will learn to avoid them, but occasionally a pet will fall into a cactus and require medical care to remove large numbers of thorns.

Our annual wild grasses produce seed heads commonly called “foxtails,” which can enter a pet’s ears and damage the eardrum. They can also penetrate the skin between toes and in the armpits. After every walk examine your pet carefully for foxtails and cactus thorns. You may need to carry tweezers to remove thorns.

Are Fleas and ticks a problem in Arizona?
Occasionally fleas can be a problem here, but not as much as in many other areas of the country. However, fleas in northern Arizona can carry Bubonic Plague (Yersinia pestis). Plague has been seen in the high desert country of northeastern Arizona. It is contagious to humans as well as pets and is associated with a fever, swollen lymph nodes, and sometimes pneumonia and death. Rabbits and rodents can carry it too. It is treatable with proper diagnosis.

Ticks, on the other hand, are quite common here and can represent a true pet health danger. They are blood suckers–hundreds on a single pet can literally suck the blood out of it. In addition they can carry a blood parasite (Ehrlichia or tick fever). Ticks can be very hard to eliminate from a pet’s environment (your yard or house) and it is best to consult professional exterminators if a problem exists. They are very common in the brushy foothills. Pets venturing into such areas should be protected with tick repellants or insecticides.

Do you have much heartworm disease there?
Not as much as in the southeastern United States and Hawaii, but it is present here. The parasite (which actually lives inside the heart chambers and is 6 to 18 inches long) is carried from an infected pet to another by a mosquito. The larvae are transmitted in the mosquito’s saliva. Heartworm prevention is as simple as a once–a–month medication, but heartworm treatment, if needed, is much more complex and expensive.

Most veterinarians in our area recommend giving heartworm prevention each month year–round. Periodic testing should be done to be sure your pet remains negative.

My friend told me her dog was poisoned by a toad. Could that be true?
Yes, the Colorado river toads (or Sonoran desert toad, Bufo alvarius) have poison glands on their neck. A pet mouthing the toad can show some very severe neurological problems until the toxins wear off. Signs of the poisoning may include drooling, heart irregularities, seizures, weakness, collapse, vomiting, and diarrhea. A big danger is that the toads are active during the summer monsoon season, so an affected pet may seizure or lie in the sun and become severely overheated leading to heatstroke. The toads are attracted to water–like your swimming pool or your pet’s water dish. If you see your pet playing with a toad, wash the pet’s mouth with water, then call a veterinarian.

What is “valley fever?”
Coccidiomycosis or valley fever is a fungal infection caused by a soil organism that lives in the deserts of the southwestern United States. Dogs and humans are more likely to be infected than cats and other species.

The infectious spores are inhaled (often during outdoor work or from summer dust storms) and grow in the lungs. This stage is associated with a cough and low-grade fever. Most humans eliminate the infection at this point, but in dogs it can spread to other parts of the body such as the bones and the brain.

Symptoms can include a cough, fever, loss of appetite, lameness, and neurological abnormalities. A blood test is required to diagnose the disease and treatments are available. It is not directly contagious between infected pets and non-infected ones or humans.

If you only live in Arizona part of the year, like many of us do, but have to seek medical treatment for your pet when back home please don’t forget to mention that your pet has spent time in Arizona. Valley fever is so localized to the southwest that many doctors in other parts of the country might not think to include it in their potential diagnoses list without the knowledge of travel history.

Do we need to be concerned about coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions?
It used to be that this was only a concern if your animals were running loose in areas where these wild predators could attack them, but as the Valley’s population spreads further out, contact with wild animals has become more common. Normally these wild animals will avoid human contact, but with humans overtaking their living areas, and with food (small prey) and water becoming scarcer with the continuing drought it has become a real danger in some areas. Therefore it is always best to take precautions: vaccinate your pets for rabies, don’t leave your pets unattended–keep them on a leash, and don’t leave food outside that may attract wild animals. Just be aware that these animals were here first, and they will attack if they are injured, cornered or very hungry.

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