Pet’s Life

February 11, 2020
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Desert Dangers for Our Pets

Dr. Steven Hansen, President & CEO
Arizona Humane Society

The Valley of the Sun offers beautiful landscapes and thousands of trails to explore with your furry friend, but it is not without its dangers. Dr. Steven Hansen, president and CEO of the Arizona Humane Society and a board-certified Veterinary Toxicologist, breaks down those dangers and how to keep pets safe.

Desert Landscaping

While Arizona’s desert landscaping might be considered low-maintenance, that certainly won’t be the case if it poisons your pet. Sago palm trees and oleander shrubs contain toxins that are extremely poisonous to animals and humans, if ingested. Clinical symptoms typically develop within 12 hours and may include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, seizures and liver failure.

Birds of Prey/Wildlife

Birds of prey such as owls, hawks and eagles hunt other animals for food. Sadly, that can mean trouble for small dogs and cats who are unsupervised in backyards or out for their evening stroll. While wildlife attacks are relatively uncommon, they are not unheard of, so always be aware of your surroundings.


When out hiking with (wo)man’s best friend, be sure to keep an eye out for Arizona’s venomous snakes, such as rattlesnakes and coral snakes. Always keep your distance. While antivenom will work on pets, it is not always readily available.


Every year, the Arizona Humane Society’s Second Chance Animal Trauma Hospital™ treats hundreds of stray pets who are suffering from heat-related ailments. During the sweltering heat, pet owners are encouraged to cut their pet’s exercise routine in half and to limit pets’ outdoor activities to very early mornings or late nights. Avoid hikes with dogs when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit. And never leave a pet unattended in a vehicle!

Valley Fever

Monsoon season can pose a threat to our pets, especially when dust storms or haboobs blow through the Valley. Not only can haboobs kick up debris, resulting in injuries to our pets, but the disturbance of dirt can cause pets to breathe in fungal spores, which can lead to Valley fever. Symptoms of Valley fever often include coughing, shortness of breath and lameness in joints.

Sonoran Desert Toads

Another byproduct of the monsoon is the emergence of Sonoran Desert toads that secrete a slime-like toxin that can kill dogs and cats. One game of fetch with a toad can lead to excessive salivation, foaming at the mouth, head shaking, confusion, vomiting, diarrhea and weakness or collapse. Rinse your pet’s mouth out immediately as you transport them to the nearest vet.

Top Tips to Keep Your Pet in Tip-Top Shape

Dr. Melissa Thompson, Vice President of Medical Operations Arizona Humane Society
Say “Cheese”

Dental health is a significant part of a pet’s overall health, as dental disease can lead to other health problems. Certain dog breeds are more susceptible, but any dog or cat can experience dental problems. Be sure to feed your pet nutritious food and consider brushing your pet’s teeth with a pet-specific toothbrush and toothpaste. Finicky pet? Certain bacteria-fighting toys and treats are also available.

Don’t Wait, Vaccinate

When bringing a new pet into your home, it is important to find a veterinarian that both you and your pet like. After the initial visit, veterinary clinics will schedule annual wellness exams to help keep pets up to date on their vaccinations. For puppies, it is critical that pet parents schedule their booster shots to occur every three to four weeks, from six to 20 weeks of age.

It’s Hip to Snip

It has never been cooler to spay and neuter your pet! Not only is spaying and neutering the best way to combat pet overpopulation in our community, it also helps pets live longer and healthier lives. The upfront investment will pay off by decreasing a pet’s chances of developing infections and certain types of cancers.

Chip, Chip, Hooray

Last year, the Arizona Humane Society’s Pet Reunite Specialist was able to reunite 794 cats and dogs with their owners. In the event your pet goes missing, a microchip greatly increases its chances of being returned home safely. Microchips are the size of a grain of rice and are easily implanted between a pet’s shoulder blades.

Did someone say “walk”?

Daily exercise should be a staple in our pets’ care. Whether it’s long walks, ball sessions or laser chase, a tired pet is a happy pet. In addition to helping keep them at the appropriate weight, exercise will help keep their minds healthy, too.

Enrich Their Lives

Another way to keep their minds healthy is to find ways to stimulate them on a daily basis. This can be done through hide and seek games, puzzle feeders and teaching your pet tricks, regardless of their age. The predator instinct in cats can be easily aroused, and many will enjoy the same puzzle games as dogs.

Did You Know?

The Arizona Humane Society’s two veterinary clinics offer affordable full-service veterinary care, spay/neuter and wellness services, as well as first-come, first-serve walk-in vaccine clinics every Friday. Visit to learn more.

Adopt, Don’t Shop!

Jane Herrera, Senior Manager of Pet Placement, Arizona Humane Society

The human-animal bond is a powerful connection that is life-changing for both pets and people. In addition to the health benefits of having a pet, the reward a family feels for giving a homeless pet a forever home is reciprocated by the unconditional love and companionship the pet brings to the family.

Adopt, Don’t Shop

From small to large, fluffy to short-haired, couch potato to hiking buddy, AHS’ Adoption Matchmakers help you find the age, size and personality that suits you best. When you adopt, you save two lives: the pet you bring home and the one who will take their place
in the shelter.

Online Profiles

With a new decade comes adoptable pet profiles that rival human dating sites! Information on a pet’s background, likes, dislikes and high-quality photos give potential adopters a special sneak peek. Pick out your favorite pet online and then stop into one of AHS’ campuses for a meet and greet.

Test out a Staycation

Adopting a pet is a big decision, so it makes sense if you want to sleep on it. What about taking home a furry friend while you do so? AHS’ Staycations allow you to take home a pet for three days and test the waters.

Pets as Gifts?

Not a problem! Once a person has decided to gift a pet to someone, there is usually no going back. We’d rather they adopt versus shop. We are happy to talk through the various considerations, and in the end, we trust that the person knows their recipient better than we do and we are happy to provide support along the way.

100% Adoption Guarantee

We know that life happens and circumstances can change, and our 100 percent adoption guarantee ensures that you can return a pet to us at any time within the pet’s lifetime for any reason.

Become a Foster Hero

Unsure of a long-term commitment? One of the best ways to temporarily care for a pet is to become a Foster Hero. As the safety net for the Valley’s most vulnerable pets, Foster Heroes expand the walls of our nonprofit organization. AHS provides all of the medical care, supplies and support while you provide the cuddles.

Sign Up for Shelter Wishlists

Still can’t find who you are looking for? Have a specific breed in mind? Sign up for AHS’ pet wishlist to be contacted when we find you a match!

Are you & your pets prepared for an emergency?

Tracey Miller, Field Operations Manager
Arizona Humane Society

As the state’s designated responder for animals in distress during natural disasters, the Arizona Humane Society’s field operations Manager, Tracey Miller, breaks down how you can prepare for your pets in case of an emergency, whether that be a wildfire, severe storm or an accidental house fire.


• Microchip your pet and be sure to update your information online.
• Always have them wear a collar with up-to-date ID tags.

Assemble your Disaster Kit

• Pet first-aid kit
• Medications/medical records
• Food/water (plus bowls) for at least five days for each pet
• Cat litter box, litter, litter scoop and garbage bags to pick up after pets
• Sturdy leashes, harnesses and carriers to transport pets safely
• Current pet photos in case you and your pets become separated
• Toys/enrichment items; blankets/towels
• Written feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavior issues along with the name and number of your veterinarian


• Find a safe, pet-friendly place to stay ahead of time, such as a friend’s house.
Make accommodations for any livestock

Plan for Your Absence

• Give a key to a trusted neighbor, friend, or family member.
• Ask your pet-sitting service if they are able to help in case of an emergency.
• Keep feeding and medication schedules on hand.


• Pet Alert window stickers on front-facing windows ensure that first responders know how many and what types of pets to locate and rescue.


• Download your disaster checklist at

If You Evacuate

• Do so early and take pets with!
• If possible, keep your Disaster Kit near an exit door or place an extra pet carrier/leash next to an exit on your home evacuation plan.

If You Stay

• Bring pets indoors. Block unsafe hiding spaces.
• Move dangerous items out of pet’s reach.
• Designate a safe room to store pet food & supplies.
• Utilize radio, TV news and social media for updates.

After an Emergency

• Don’t allow pets to roam alone, as familiar smells and sights may have changed and pets may get lost.
• Keep dogs leashed or cats crated while you assess any damage.
• If flooding occurs, check your home and yard for wild animals and unsafe objects.
• Be patient with your pets! They experience stress just like you do and need time to calm down and get acclimated.

Did You Know?

Last year, the Arizona Humane Society’s Emergency Animal Medical Technicians™ and Animal Cruelty Investigators rescued 4,367 sick and injured animals and assisted law enforcement on 7,773 suspected cases of animal cruelty.


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