Monsoon Pet Hazards


Toads are found in wet places like backyards during and after a rain and around ponds. Other than an irritating bad taste in a dog’s mouth, most toads are not toxic enough to cause great harm to your dog. Since toads are nocturnal, it’s important to be vigilant when your dog is outside at night for his walk or run before bed, especially during or after a rain.

In order for a dog to be poisoned by a toad, he has to actually pick it up in his mouth, bite it or lick it. Dog and toad encounters can happen no matter where you live. Somtimes, toads will crawl into a dog’s food bowl that is sitting outside to eat the dog’s food. In rare cases, they can leave enough residual to poison the dog when he then eats from that bowl or even licks the side where the toad was perched.

Toads are not pleasant tasting even to dogs, however, dogs put an investment into their natural instinct to hunt. For a dog, toad hunting begins with staring, stalking, sniffing and then finally the catch. Of course that always results in the dog quickly spitting the offending toad out which is followed by foaming and a look to us like it was our fault they put that nasty tasting thing in their mouth in the first place. In most cases, the toad does not have enough toxin to harm your dog. However, the Colorado River Toad is one of the most poisonous toads in the United States. The Colorado River Toad lives in the Southwestern states from Arizona to Southern California. It’s important to know what to watch for if your dog catches one.


The first obvious sign your dog caught a toad is foaming at the mouth. He may indicate his mouth is irritated by pawing at his mouth and shaking his head. A dog and toad encounter can leave the dog with mouth pain. Check his gums for inflammation or redness if he appears to be having pain in his mouth. If you suspect your dog caught a toad, you can flush his mouth with water from a garden hose. Try not to let the water run down his nose or throat by rinsing from the side of his mouth and holding his head down so the water runs out of his mouth. Gently rub the gums and inside of his mouth until the slimy feeling is gone.

Vomiting, weakness, appearing confused or disoriented, fever, labored breathing, seizures or diarrhea are signs your dog has been poisoned by a toad. Immediate medical treatment is required at this point.  A hospitalized stay may be required that would include IV fluids, medication for pain, seizures, fever and stress as well as treating and controlling the dog’s abnormal heartbeat.
It’s impossible for most dog owners to watch their dogs constantly. Even on walks, with you by their side, your dog can find a toad hiding in a clump of grass they are investigating. Knowing the signs of toad poisoning and what to do is your best defense in protecting your dog. Our pets don’t always know what’s good for them. Don’t let a toad encounter leave a bad taste in your dog’s mouth!

If you are interested in prevention for your pet, please enlist the help of Dr. Vanya Moreno, of Animal Magnetism, in training your pet.  She can be reached at (520) 440-5040 for appointments.

Source: Responsible Pet Ownership Blog,

Beware of Hot Pavement!





Things like leaving your pet in a car or keeping their water bowl full might seem obvious, but protecting your pet’s paws is just as important when temperatures begin climb. Pavement, asphalt, wood, metal and sand absorb heat from the sun and can stay hot for hours even after the sun has gone down.

Even on a “cooler” Tucson summer day, even an 88-degree day, the temperature of the pavement can climb to 145 degrees. An egg can fry on the sidewalk at 131 degrees, so  think what that could be doing to your dog’s paws!


Another hidden hazard is car surfaces and truck beds because they can become blazing hot in a relatively short time.

Here are tips to protect your pet’s paws:

• Check the pavement for heat before taking your dog on a walk. Place your hand or a bare foot on the surface for 10 seconds. If it is too hot for you to keep your hand or foot on it, then it is too hot for your pet.

• Stay on grassy surfaces and avoid bare ground when outside in the summer heat.

• Avoid the hottest parts of the day. Walk early in the morning or late in the evening after the pavement has cooled down.

• Invest in a pair of booties to help keep the heat from burning your dog’s paws.

• Keep in mind that your dog’s paws may be more susceptible to hot materials after swimming.

If you see any signs in your dog such as limping, reluctance to walk, a red or pink color change in the paw pads, licking or chewing at the feet, missing pieces of the pads or blisters on them, take your dog to the vet immediately.


  • © 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior permission.

Heat Stroke in Dogs

Summer brings exceptionally high temperatures in the Rita Ranch & Vail area, which makes it even more important to ensure that your pets are kept cool. Veterinarians commonly see dogs with heat stroke, but most of these cases could easily have been averted with some easy precautions.


The following six tips will help you keep your dog cool:

  1. The best method for keeping your dog cool is to simply allow him or her to stay inside a house with air conditioning.  Dogs want to be part of the family and almost always enjoy being inside.
  2. If your dog must be kept outside in the heat, one tool to help keep your dog from overheating is a child’s small hard plastic swimming pool. Place it in a shaded area of the yard and fill with a few inches of water. Your dog can drink from it, walk through it, or even lie in it.
  3. Misters are another good tool which can be installed on your patio or any shaded area of your back yard. These emit a fine mist of water that your dog can use to keep cool.
  4. Another trick is to take large plastic jugs such as milk containers, fill them with water and then freeze them.  Place outside in an area where your dog usually stays, preferably in a shaded area.  Behind the ice-filled jugs, place an electric fan so it blows across the ice and creates a cool breeze for your dog.
  5. Never leave your dog in a car! Even in relatively mild outdoor temperatures, on a sunny day the environment inside the car can get dangerously hot in just a few minutes.  It’s best for your dog to stay home while you run errands or go into town!
  6. Never leave your dog tied to a tree or a post. In fact, it is illegal to tie-out a dog in Arizona. Heat stroke can quickly ensue due to the fact that they may tangle themselves and be unable to reach their water or escape the sun.

If your dog is heat stressed, it will be panting heavily, with its tongue hanging out long and wide. This increases the surface area of the tongue and allows for more evaporation to happen, which helps keep your dog cool. Another symptom is the color of the gums will be a very bright red or sometimes a muddy color. If you notice any of these symptoms, take action immediately! Call your veterinarian at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital for cooling instructions and bring your pet in immediately.

Heat stroke in dogs is usually easily preventable. Using these tips will let you enjoy hot weather safely with your dog and may even save your dog’s life!


What is a “Wellness Screening”?



More than 10 percent of pets brought to veterinary clinics for checkups have some type of underlying disease or abnormality, according to published research. Many of these pets appear normal upon physical examination, and their abnormalities would go undetected without a wellness screen—a blood test designed to detect these silent problems.

The process of disease development in pets can be slow and insidious. When an organ system starts to fail, that organ will compensate to bring function back to normal. Over time, this compensating mechanism will fail as well and the pet will become ill. Once the pet is in organ failure, treatment options are limited and the prognosis is poor.
Our staff can perform a simple in-house blood test that will check your pet’s:

  • liver
  • kidneys
  • pancreas
  • electrolytes
  • minerals
  • blood sugar

The test also can alert us to infection, inflammatory disease, and anemia.  Early detection of disease is key. Once a problem has been identified, we can make appropriate treatment
recommendations at a point when treatment will make the most difference. Often, a simple diet change is all that’s needed to avoid major health problems.
Our wellness screen is a simple blood test. We usually have results in 20 to 30 minutes, or the next business day for more comprehensive panels. If you have questions, please talk with a team member at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital.

Early detection of disease is key.  Once a problem has been identified, we can make appropriate treatment recommendations at a point when treatment will make the most difference!

Arthritis in Cats


What is arthritis?
Arthritis (sometimes called osteoarthritis) is the inflammation within the joints and tissues surrounding them.

Which cats are at risk?
Arthritis is extremely common in cats, increasing in frequency with age. One study showed that 90% of cats over 12 years of age had evidence of arthritis. In another study, 22% of ALL cats have some changes on x-ray suggesting arthritis with 33% of those showing clinical signs! Some breeds are at greater risk for certain joint troubles: for example Maine coon cats are more prone to hip trouble and Abyssinian cats are more prone to knee trouble, but the breed disposition for arthritis hasn’t been studied and males and females are equally at risk.

How do I know if my cat has arthritis? What are the signs?
Since the hips and elbows are the most commonly affected joints, lameness is not typically a sign of arthritis in cats. Rather, the signs come on so slowly they are often missed or are incorrectly attributed to aging. Signs include: Inappropriate elimination (outside the litter box), decreased grooming, reluctance to be combed, reluctance to jump up/down, sleeping more, moving less, withdrawing from interaction with the owner, and hiding.


How is arthritis diagnosed?
Radiographs (x-rays) can hint at arthritis, but the degree of change on the x-ray doesn’t always correlate with the degree of pain. For instance, a cat may have very mild changes apparent on an x-ray, but may be very painful. The reverse is also true. Cats in general, are much less cooperative in the exam room to have their joints palpated and gait analyzed, so often we rely on the owner’s observation, x-rays, and blood work (to rule out any underlying medical issues).

How is arthritis treated?
There are many ways to slow the progression of arthritis and treat the associated pain:

  • Environmental control. There are many easy ways to alter your cat’s home to help reduce arthritis pain. Cut a low opening in the litter box so your cat doesn’t have to jump in/out. Make or buy a set of steps for your cat to get to their favorite spot. Some owners will simply move boxes or small pieces of furniture to create some steps to their favorite spots. Provide soft well-padded beds in your cat’s favorite spots. In general, older arthritic cats LOVE heating pads, set on low with a blanket covering them (just don’t leave them on unattended and risk fire.)
  • Joint supplements. These are believed to have a positive influence on cartilage health by altering cartilage repair and maintenance in the joints. While joint supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin are “nutraceuticals” and not yet approved by the FDA, many cats benefit from them.
  • Essential Fatty Acids (DHA and EPA), the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have been shown to have marked anti-inflammatory effects in dogs and cats.
  • Weight loss. If your cat is overweight, it stresses the arthritic joints even more and contributes to the pain. Talk to us and together we can work with you to come up with a plan for weight loss for your cat.
  • Acupuncture has been shown to relieve arthritis in cats.

Please call and speak with your veterinarian or technician at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital if you have any questions or want to try the above treatments.
Source: M. Kathleen Shaw DVM