The unique challenges of pet ownership in Tucson

Tucson pets have a great life here; and at the same time living in the Sonoran desert presents many unique challenges. Our weather, desert wildlife, ground temperatures, and soil spores can pose issues that Arizona pet owners need to be aware of. We have provided this quick overview to help familiarize you with some of the issues our Tucson Veterinary office sees regularly.


As you may have noticed, it gets hot in Arizona. Pets need lots of water and shade or air conditioning when it’s hot.  In the summer, walking your dogs in the early morning or evening when the temperatures are not as severe is advisable. Concrete and blacktop get extremely hot and can scorch their paws, so check the surface temperature before walking your pet on a hot day. Also, bring water on walks since pets can experience heat exhaustion just like people.

Never keep a pet or a child in a closed car. It is illegal. Brain damage and/or death can occur quickly as temperatures inside a car can reach 200 degrees.  If you suspect your pet is experiencing heat exhaustion, please contact us immediately.


One of the most common issues Tucson Veterinarians treat pets for is Valley Fever. Valley Fever, or Coccidioidomycosis, is a fungal disease caused by microscopic spores found in the ground in the Sonoran Desert. Construction and pets digging disturb these spores, which can cause them to become airborne and inhaled into your pet’s lungs. Be aware of early warning signs such as:

  • Coughing.
  • Fever.
  • Weight loss.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Lack of energy.

Valley Fever can be a very painful disease and can be fatal. It is treatable, but the medicine can be expensive and the treatment very lengthy. If you suspect your animal may have contracted Valley Fever, please contact us to schedule an appointment with your Tucson Veterinarian, Dr. Richard Livingston, at 520-441-3860.


Part of the charm of Tucson is the amazing wildlife that lives here.  Take steps to separate our beautiful wildlife from our beloved pets. Coyotes, Mountain Lions, Bobcats, Owls, and Hawks: These wild animals may view your pet as prey if left unattended or allowed to run free. Keeping your pet on a leash is not only a good idea, it is also the law. If you have a fence or a wall for your dog or cat, it will likely keep many of these predators out. However, small pets are vulnerable to attacks from Owls and Hawks. Cats are much safer as indoor pets, especially those that have been declawed. Neutering your pets also lowers their desire to run away, which will make them less vulnerable.


A rattlesnake bite to you or your pet can be fatal. The sooner you seek medical attention for the bite, the better the prognosis. Contact us immediately if your pet has been bitten by a rattlesnake. To decrease the likelihood of a rattlesnake attack:

  • If you see a rattlesnake, do not allow your pet near it.
  • Keep your garage door shut (snakes love garages).
  • Secure openings in your wall or enclosed areas in your yard.
  • Contact us about Rattlesnake avoidance classes, 520-441-3860.


These large red (or pink) and black lizards have a painful and poisonous bite. Although the bite is not fatal it is very painful, as the Gila Monsters will sometimes attach themselves to whatever they are biting with a fierce grip. If your pet has been bitten by a Gila Monster, please contact Tucson’s Acoma Animal Clinic for treatment, 520-441-3860.


Desert toads are usually only seen around the monsoon season and are extremely poisonous. These large toads look harmless, but they excrete poison through glands in their skin around their neck. The white milky poison can cause severe irritation to the eyes and nose, foaming at the mouth, paralysis, seizures, and even death. The poison can cause heart irregularities and can result in death less than 30 minutes after exposure. If you see your dog or cat mouthing or playing with these toads, or showing signs of staggering or dilated eye pupils, carefully flush their mouth thoroughly with water and contact us immediately for veterinary care, 520-441-3860.


Spider bites and scorpion stings are very painful and can cause extreme health issues for your pets. If your pet is suddenly vomiting, defecating uncontrollably, or acting strange, contact us immediately for veterinary care, 520-441-3860.


Although not as common as in many parts of the country, we do have fleas and ticks in Arizona. Flea infestations can be especially challenging because, even after treatment, fleas may have laid eggs in your home, which will again infest your dog or cat.

Ticks are easy to remove but hard to kill. Make sure to use tweezers, removing the head of the tick and dropping them into rubbing alcohol to kill them. If your pet has been infested with ticks, we recommend getting your pet tested for a very serious but treatable disease known as tick fever. We carry a full line of Heartworm, Flea, and Tick Preventative medicines. Please contact us for more information at 520-441-3860.


Again, they are not as common as other areas of the country, but they can be present wherever mosquitoes exist. Preventative medicine is usually the best case scenario, as a positive heartworm test can be very expensive to treat. We carry a full line of Heartworm, Flea, and Tick Preventative medicines. Please contact us for more information at 520-441-3860.


Countless Tucson pets have been successfully returned to their homes thanks to micro chipping. A tiny microchip is inserted under your pet’s skin, which has a number associated with the chip. If your pet is lost and brought to a local animal shelter, a veterinarian, or the Humane Society, they will be scanned for a microchip. The chip’s information is part of a national database to match the pet and its owner. We offer micro chipping for your dogs and cats. Given how quickly a pet can run out the front door or scamper over a wall, every pet should have a micro chip (even if they’re an inside-only pet). Don’t risk losing your pet and not being reunited.  Contact us to schedule an appointment for this simple procedure at 520-441-3860.