pet news

AUGUST 7, 2013

Desert tortoises make easy non-traditional pets

PHOENIX - Are you fascinated by reptiles? Do you have a big yard? If so, please consider adopting a desert tortoise through the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Desert tortoises offer a unique alternative to more traditional family pets, and can teach many of the same life lessons to children, including responsibility, compassion and commitment.

According to Cristina Jones, Arizona Game and Fish’s turtle program coordinator, “This iconic desert species has become overpopulated in captivity and there aren’t enough homes for them.”

Desert tortoises are native to the southwestern desert and can live up to 100 years. They grow to be about 15 pounds and hibernate in the winter months. Desert tortoises eat plant material, including grasses and wildflowers. Once captive, desert tortoises cannot be released back into the wild as captive animals can pass an upper respiratory disease to wild tortoise populations. It is illegal and harmful to desert tortoise populations to collect tortoises from the wild.

Those interested in adopting a tortoise will need to have an enclosed area in their yard free from potential hazards, such as a dog or pool. The enclosed area must include a burrow for the tortoise to escape Arizona’s extreme temperatures.

Those interested should visit for more information on caring for, feeding, habitat, and adopting a tortoise.


Bufo Toads

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This is one of the desert dwellers that most people who move here don’t know about. It is one of the greater concerns for our pets. This is the time of year that we see the Bufo come out of the mud during monsoon season.

Bufo toads look like a common frog with a lot of warts. They vary in size from small to the size of a baked potato. These toads hibernate in the mud during most of the year and become active after rains or when the ground gets wet by water tanks or sprinkler systems.

They are most commonly seen around plants and non-bug proof lights that attract bugs. “We recommend here at AHS to use yellow bug lights if you plan to have lights on at night to avoid toads as well as scorpions.”

Bufo toads have salivary glands behind the ear holes that carry a toxin which, when ingested by a dog, can be almost immediately toxic. The dog will usually bite down on the toad or try to eat it and the toad exudes the toxin. The toxin is absorbed directly by the mucus membrane (through the mouth). The dog can actually go comatose within 30-60 seconds given there is enough toxin. If the toxin does not make them go down, usually the dog will salivate profusely and vomit. The next thing we usually see is a rise in temperature, commonly up to 107º-108ºF (normal is 101.5º-102.5ºF) and the heart will beat faster at about 200-300 beats per minute (normal is 120-180bpm). In a small percentage of cases, this will even be fatal.

Home care prior to veterinary care is vital to the treatment of these cases. This involves washing the toxin from the mouth as quickly as possible. We recommend a garden hose (slow flow) to rinse mouth out sideways (never directly down the throat!). It is also important to wet the dog down to cool the dog due to the rise in body temperature. The next step is to seek veterinary care. In a large percentage of cases, if you have done the home care, the dog will be fine with minimal medical care. In the cases that are more severe, treatment may be the difference between life and death. Do not wait to see though! If you wait and it is the severe reaction it may be too late before you get help. Things can deteriorate rapidly.

Dogs can be trained to avoid toads using the same methods as snake prevention. If your pet captures a Bufo Toad, please call us for assistance with poison treatment at 480-488-6181.