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An Arizonan’s Guide to Desert Pet Dangers

Two large dogs enjoying a day in the desert

Living in Arizona has many perks – beautiful weather, amazing views, and wonderful people. Living the desert life, though, does have certain risks that those in other areas of the country need not worry about. Desert pet dangers are real. Learn what you can do to keep your pet safe.

Valley Fever

Here in the southwest, our weather and soil conditions are ideal to propagate a fungus called Coccidioides. This organism’s spores live in the soil and can easily be picked up by the wind, resulting in inhalation. This is more likely if the dirt is disturbed during construction.

When Coccidioides is inhaled, some animals are able to get rid of the infection on their own. Other times, though, it can infect the lungs and spread to other organs, causing serious disease. This condition, known as Valley Fever, can cause many symptoms including:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Decreased appetite
  • Limping
  • Seizures
  • Many others depending on organs affected

It is important to treat pets who have Valley Fever so that the disease does not progress. Sometimes a patient may need treatment for a year or longer.

There isn’t any known way to prevent infection at this time, so it is very important for Arizona pet owners to be aware of the disease and its symptoms.

Critters as Desert Pet Dangers

Arizona is home to a wide variety of wildlife. Our rich zoological diversity is beautiful, but some of the creatures that reside here can pose a risk to our pets. Critters that we need to be careful with include:

  • Snakes – Rattlesnakes and other venomous snake bites are extremely dangerous for our pets and require immediate medical attention
  • Colorado River Toads – Commonly found during mid-summer to early fall, these toads have a potentially fatal, poisonous excretion on their skin
  • Scorpions – Scorpion stings are painful and, in some cases, can cause and life threatening reactions
  • Coyotes – these pack animals hunt in groups and pose a threat to any pet, but especially small dogs and cats
  • Birds of Prey – Arizona is home to many species of predatory birds. The larger birds of prey can swoop down and carry off small dogs and cats.

Steps you can take to decrease chance encounters with these troublesome critters:

  • When outdoors, keep yourself and your pets on marked trails or clearings.
  • Always keep dogs on a leash.
  • Don’t allow your pet to pester wildlife, no matter what it is.
  • It is also helpful to teach your dog a “leave it” command, which can be very important from a distance.


Heat is definitely one of the biggest dangers to an Arizona pet. Don’t forget to:

  • Always provide access to fresh, cool water and shade
  • Leave at least an inch of fur when grooming your pet to provide insulation from the heat
  • Never leave a pet in a car unattended, no matter for how short a time
  • Enjoy the outdoors during cooler parts of the day

Remember too that pets who are very old, young, overweight, or have a flat face (for example: Pugs, Bulldogs, Persian cats) are more prone to overheating. Pay close attention to signs that your pet may need to go indoors, such as heavy panting, vomiting or diarrhea, or weakness.

Learning what desert pet dangers to be aware of is an important step in protecting your pet. If you’re new to the area or have questions, talk to us at Animal Medical & Surgical Center here in Scottsdale.

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