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Hidden Desert Dangers For Dogs

Seven Desert Dangers For Dogs

The warmer weather brings out a variety of critters that enjoy basking in the sunshine, including snakes and other creepy crawlies. Since dogs love to sniff around and investigate all sorts of interesting sights and smells during walks, they may be at risk for meeting all sorts of potentially harmful desert dwellers. Here are some of the things you’ll need to watch out for when venturing outside or into the desert with your dog.

1. Arizona Rattlesnake Season:

While not all snakes are dangerous, pet owners need to be prepared for Arizona’s rattlesnake season. An encounter with one of these creatures can be deadly for your furry friend. Always be aware of your surroundings and where you step while on walks or hiking with your beloved pet. If your dog gets bitten by a snake, it’s important to get to an emergency veterinarian immediately! For the best chance of recovery, dogs must be treated for a snake bite within just a couple hours of the bite. Restrict your pet’s movement to slow the venom’s spread, and remove any collars and halters if any swelling is occurring near the head or limbs. Symptoms of snake bites can include:

  • Changes in gum color (Brick Red or Pale)
  • Swelling
  • Weakness
  • Rapid breathing & heart rate
  • Continuous licking of paws
  • Digging at ears
  • Oozing from a puncture wound
  • Collapse from shock

Snake training for dogs can help avoid a snake bite. Phoenix has a lot of frequent hikers and residential areas with lots of desert around. That’s why we recommend you and your pet attend Rattlesnake Avoidance Training with a professional trainer. There are several different methods involved in this type of training, so be sure to ask a lot of questions before you decide on a trainer and training system. We also recommend repeating training annually – as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

2. Scorpions, scorpions, scorpions!:

Can scorpions hurt dogs? Oh, yes. Out of the more than 1,700 known types of scorpions, about 25 have sufficient amounts of venom to deliver a sting that could be fatal to pets. It’s no surprise that many poisonous scorpions make Arizona their home, including the deadly bark scorpion. During spring and summer months, our hospitals experience an increased number of calls about a dog stung by a scorpion on the nose or a scorpion bite on the dog’s paw. Symptoms of scorpion stings can include pain and localized swelling on the nose, face, paws or legs. Smaller dogs can even experience seizures. If you suspect your dog has been stung by a scorpion, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.

3. Heat Stroke/Hyperthermia:

Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, is a real danger for both pets and people. Unlike humans, cats and dogs have very few sweat glands – they’re located in places such as their feet and noses. Hyperthermia occurs when your pet’s body temperature rises dangerously above normal, putting them at risk for multiple organ failure or death. Early recognition, and treatment of heatstroke, can improve your pet’s chances of making a quick recovery. Seek veterinary care and guidance as soon as possible! Symptoms of heatstroke in dogs can include:

  • Excessive panting/drooling
  • Dehydration
  • Reddened gums
  • Reduced or no urine production
  • Rapid/irregular heart rate
  • Vomiting blood/black, tarry stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in mental status (i.e. confusion and dizziness)
  • Seizures/muscle tremors
  • Wobbly, uncoordinated/drunken gait or movement
  • Unconsciousness/Cardiopulmonary Arrest (heart and breathing stop)

4. Javelinas:

Are javelinas dangerous to dogs? Yes and no. While they can be a nuisance, according to Arizona Game & Fish, they rarely present any significant risk to dogs. Coyotes are a natural predator for javelinas, so they’ll tend to steer clear of you and your dog unless cornered or while trying to protect their young. If you encounter a javelina or a group of them while walking with your dog, immediately turn around and head in another direction.

5. Foxtails & Cactus:

While these native plants are pretty, they can have quite a sting. If your dog comes in contact with a cactus, call your vet or an emergency vet right away for guidance. Foxtail can be quite dangerous to pets, as the barbed seed heads can work their way into your dog’s eyes, ears, mouth, paws or skin. Left untreated, they can cause serious infection.

6. Bugs & Mosquitoes:

Warmer weather also brings out an abundance of bugs, including mosquitoes. To help keep your pet safe, be sure to maintain your pet’s heartworm preventative medicine. Being outside and going on walks increase your pet’s chances of having bugs hitch a ride on them – including fleas and ticks. On top of using medications prescribed by your vet to help prevent fleas and ticks, be sure to regularly check your pup’s body for critters after being outdoors.

7. Cuts, Bites, & Burns:

Noses, paws, and legs are where most cuts, bites, and burns occur in dogs. Remember, the pads on your dog’s feet are NOT the same as shoes, so delicate paw pads can burn and blister very easily. Hiking, running, and other protective shoes that are made just for dogs can help prevent cuts, bites, and burns on tender paw pads that will require veterinary care. 

Finally, during Arizona’s summer months, it’s best to take walks early in the morning when it’s cooler, or later in the evening after the cement or ground has had time to cool down. Remember, if you can’t walk barefoot, then neither should your pet! And if your pet does tangle with one of Arizona’s native snakes, scorpions. or other critters, act quickly and call your veterinarian for help. 

[DISCLAIMER] Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.

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