Arizona has seen a lot of changes in the past few years – including a big migration to our beautiful city! While we welcome all these newcomers, we are seeing a lot of people move here without knowing how to protect their pets. We hope this article will help you prepare and keep your pets safe.

The Sonoran desert is filled with beauty, but nearly everything wants to prick, prod, bite, or strike your pet. Here are a few things we want new residents to know. Pet Sitters are vital to our way of life in Arizona and we hope you feel the same way after reading this article.

1. Small pets should not be let outdoors unattended.

Arizona is filled with coyotes, hawks, snakes and other predators who consider your pet a quick lunch. Simply letting your dog into an enclosed backyard can be a huge danger for small dogs (and even some large dogs).

Coyotes use the block walls in our city as a type of “superhighway” and they can travel from yard to yard without detection. It takes mere seconds for them to jump a wall, grab your pet, and carry them off. The same holds for our hawks, owls and other flying predators.

If you do want a pet door, make sure it opens into a fully enclosed area that protects from ground and air assault. We also recommend a pet door that responds only to your pet’s microchip rather than just opening, in order to prevent curious reptiles or hungry predators from entering the home.

2. Snakes Live in the Desert

This fact shouldn’t surprise anyone, but with all of the new construction being built over top of dens, snakes can merely come out of hibernation in someone’s yard. Arizona has 13 species of rattlesnakes and all of them are dangerous to pets. They can strike your curious pets in seconds and the result will be thousands of dollars in veterinarian bills if you can save them at all.

Be sure your yard is snake-proofed and if possible, consider having your dog snake trained.

3. Bats Often Land in Yards

Each year, our monsoon sends storms through the desert and it seems like we always locate an exhausted bat in a yard. Curious pets will often approach or try to play with the bat, which will mean the death of the bat and a long quarantine for your dog.

If you happen to find a bat in your yard, leave it alone and keep your pets away. Eventually, it will regain its strength and fly away.

4. Arizona Heat Is Deadly

Every year, we see dogs that have been left outside die from heatstroke. Arizona heat is nothing to mess around with and you must always be watchful of your pet’s water intake and time outdoors. Dogs and cats should be indoors during the hot summer days.

Some homes even use special equipment to ensure their houses never get too hot for pets while they are away. Something as simple as a broken air conditioning can result in death.

On this same note, our pavement and sidewalks – even packed dirt – can burn your pet’s paws. This is a real issue and you should never ask your dog to walk across a parking lot or even down the street without paw protection. Walks should only be done in the very early morning hours (after 11 pm or before 6 am).

5. Cactus is Dangerous

The Saguaro cactus is native to our desert, as well as our state plant, and is therefore protected. Before you start removing cactus from your yard, remember that most forms of cactus are protected by law no matter how dangerous it may be to your pets.

Cholla cactus (also known as “jumping cholla”) is one of our least favorite plants. This plant breaks off in sections when a pet or person walks by and appears to “jump” at them. When the dog tries to remove the section attached to a paw, he winds up with a mouthful of cactus spines that embed into the mouth and can even move through the bloodstream.

If your dog has done this, get them to a veterinarian and ask them to remove the spines.

6. Most of our Plants are Toxic

Arizona plant life is hardy and beautiful thanks to our annual monsoon season. This makes Arizona unique and dangerous for pets. We have over 2,000 species of plants in the Sonoran desert and nearly all of them are toxic or dangerous for pets.

If ingested, common plants like oleander, sago palm, lantana, castor, and many others can poison your pets. This is especially important for young pets who tend to explore with their mouths. The ASPCA has a long list of plants that can place animals in danger, and the AZ Humane Society has created a list of dangerous plants in the Phoenix area. 

Before you add your new landscaping, be sure to refer to these lists.

7. Even Our Toads are Toxic

Arizona has several varieties of bufo toads that live underground and can pop up when humidity hits its high in summer or during/after rainfall. It is almost impossible to know if your yard will have toads, but if they are mouthed by dogs or cats, they release a neurotoxin that can disorient and even kill your pet.

If your pet mouths a toad, immediately wash their mouths with running water (being very cautious not to drown or injure them further) and take them to a veterinarian.

8. Insects and Standing Water

You may think it’s too hot to have ticks in the Valley of the Sun, but unfortunately, they exist everywhere. Be sure you have your pets on regular flea and tick maintenance as well as a heartworm prevention.

Standing water is a real threat for animals so don’t let your pets drink from ponds, resident lakes, or rain puddles. Leptospirosis, a zoonotic disease of worldwide significance, is on the rise in dogs in Arizona. It is caused by spirochetes that are spread through the urine of infected animals (rodents, dogs, wildlife, livestock) and can be found in urine- contaminated soil and water.

9. Violent Monsoon Storms

Our monsoon season has proven deadly on many occasions. Our storms are violent and terrifying, often arriving without notice. Wind gusts, often exceeding 50 mph, can blow gates open, knock walls and trees over, and terrify your pets. It’s important to have a network in place who can check your pets should you be away from home during a storm.

10. Fungal infections from Dust are Deadly

Valley Fever is a serious respiratory infection that comes from a fungal spore that lives in our soil. This fungal infection hits dogs particularly hard and can result in lameness, coughing, fever, lack of appetite, and eventually, death. While there is not much you can do to prevent this condition, treatment is most effective when started early. It can take at least a year of medication and blood draws (most often, longer) to treat this condition in dogs. Signs of valley fever usually occur about three weeks after infection. But, in some cases, the organism can lay dormant in the body for up to three years before symptoms occur.

These are just a few of the reasons we suggest pet sitters who understand these dangers. Our sitters are well-trained on these issues and know exactly how to handle any type of incident. Pampered Pets & Plants have the most well-trained and informed staff in the state and we’re happy to help!