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Arizona's 10 Most "Unwanted" List

Spring is in the air and along with it, some of Arizona's most unwanted critters! Read on and keep yourself and your pet's safe!


1. SONORAN DESERT TOADS Aka: Colorado River Toad
Last seen: At night, just before or after Monsoon Season

Danger: Neurological toxins on skin glands cause seizure-like symptoms and excessive salivation if a dog licks, bites or plays with the toad or drinks from a water bowl where the toad was sitting.

Treatment: Flush out your dog’s mouth thoroughly with a water hose aiming sideways, not down his throat. If a pet is not back to normal within 30 minutes and continues to salivate, vomit or acts strangely, take to your veterinarian immediately.

2. RATTLESNAKESAka: Diamond back, Mojave or any of the 17 rattlesnake species native to Arizona.  

Last seen: Summer evenings after sunset or warm spring and fall days.

Danger: Curious or aggressive dogs confront snake, get bitten. The venom causes tissue necrosis and sometimes neurological symptoms.

Prevention: Do not let dog run ahead of you on walks. Consider Snake Aversion Training. Ask your veterinarian about the Rattlesnake Vaccine.

3. SCORPIONSAka: Bark Scorpion

Last seen: Outside at night during warmer summer months. Inside your house all year round.

Danger: Scorpion venom contains enzymes which are very painful.

Prevention: Supervise dogs on night walks. Hard to prevent if scorpions are in your home.

Treatment: Watch animal for signs of drooling, swelling at site of sting, tremors, breathing problems, dilated pupils and acting painful. If pet does not improve, take to your veterinarian. Do NOT give your pet any medication from home! Seek veterinary care!

4. SPIDERSAka: Tarantula, Black Widow, and Brown Recluse   

Last seen: In dark crevices, holes and wood piles. Often seen in garages.

Danger: Female black widow’s venom can injure, even kill a small pet.

Prevention: Limit pet access to places that may be home to the above spiders

Treatment: For Black Widow Bites, Onset of clinical signs is usually 8 hours post venomation. Cats are very sensitive and death is common. Primary treatment is special antivenom. Seek a 24 hour Emergency Clinic for care. Prognosis is uncertain and complete recovery may take weeks.

5. VALLEY FEVERAka: Coccidiomycosis, a fungal spore found in the Arizona dirt. Primary infection affects the lungs and can become disseminated form which spreads to bones, joints, brain and other organs.

Last seen: In the warm arid climates of the deserts of the Southwestern United States.

Danger: Can cause fever, listlessness, cough, weight loss, limping, abscess and seizures.

Treatment: A blood test is needed to confirm the disease. Long term treatment with anti-fungals and follow up blood tests are needed.

Prevention: Reduce pets exposure to desert soil and dust from wind. Avoid busy construction sites.

6. HEARTWORM WHAT IT IS: A serious, potentially fatal canine disease spread by mosquitoes. More prevalent near lakes, golf courses, swimming pools and irrigated land.

Transmitted: Mosquito bites infected dog then bites another. Infected larvae enters a dog’s bloodstream and develops into adult worms living in the heart.

Symptoms: Cough, listlessness, weight loss, reduced endurance.

Treatment: Expensive and harsh, requires painful injections, restricted activity and possible radiographs. Continued veterinary care for several months.

Prevention: Easy and safe; Annual blood tests that can be performed at your annual exam and monthly preventative medications. Please ask you Veterinarian for more information.

7. CANINE TICK FEVERAka: Erlichiosis caused by the brown dog tick.

Last seen: This particular tick is found everywhere in the United States.

Transmitted: Dog becomes infected when bitten by the tick carrying the organism. It only takes one and sometimes is undetected by the owner.

Symptoms: Non- specific but may include, listlessness, swollen lymph nodes, fever, weight loss, abnormal bleeding and eye/nose discharge. Disease can be chronic, even fatal.

Treatement: Diagnosed via blood test. Treat with antibiotics. Some dogs require blood transfusions.

Prevention: Check dog for ticks, especially when hiking. Use Frontline Plus monthly. Infested areas in home or yard may require professional exterminator for several months.

8. HEAT-RELATED PROBLEMSHeatstroke: Don’t leave dogs outside during Arizona summer. If dogs are outside, provide shade and a tip-proof water bowl. Don’t hike with pet during heat of the day. DON’T leave your dog in a car, even with windows slightly open, even on a “nice” day; temps in cars can reach 150-200 degrees in minutes. Take extra care with overweight, thick coated or short muzzled dogs which are most sensitive to heat.

Hot pavement: If it’s too hot for your bare feet, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws!

Sunburn: Pets with pale skin, thin coats and pink noses can get sunburned, even skin cancer. Be aware that certain sunscreens and zinc are toxic to animals. Best prevention, keep indoors. Ask for recommendations from your veterinarian.

9 .SWIMMING POOLS Last seen: Everywhere in the greater Phoenix area.

Danger: Pets may jump or fall in but be unable to get out and drown. If in winter, pet can suffer hypothermia.

Prevention: Fence around pool. Show dogs where the steps are and how to get out. Create a ramp or other device to help small dogs and cats. Supervise old, ill or blind animals. Never leave alone around a pool.

10. CACTUSAka: Jumping cholla, fishhook, prickly pear, etc.

Last seen: Everywhere in Arizona.

Danger: Pain, abscesses, infection especially around face.

Symptoms: If you see cactus on your pet, or if it is crying or limping, cactus may be in paw.

Treatment: Use a large-tooth comb to quickly remove burrs and stickers. More serious cases require veterinary care and treatment.

Prevention: Keep dogs on a leash; do not let them roam in natural desert areas.
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