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Dogs and Florida Heat: Heat Strokes, Burns & Snake Bites

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

Everyone looks forward to the fun and relaxation that comes with the warm weather of the summer time. However, the sizzling summer temperatures also bring additional health risks for pets especially in Florida! At First Coast Veterinary ER, our staff has seen it all and we would like to give a brief informative insight to the general public. Everything from heat stroke to heat trauma (burns), to severe respiratory distress, and even venomous snake bites. The important thing to keep in mind is that many of these situations are largely preventable with adequate awareness and appropriate precautions. 

In regards to heat stroke, this is not something that is only caused by intense physical activity. Although, even a short walk on the beach for some dogs can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, other events such as sitting in a parked car, even if the windows are down, can still cause some dogs to overheat quickly. For certain dogs, just laying outside in the shade for too long on a hot humid day, or taking a short walk through the neighborhood can lead to heat exhaustion, which in turn, can cause anxiety that could potentially lead to severe respiratory distress and heat stroke. The group of canine friends that are most susceptible to the above described events are those older dogs who suffer from even just a mild laryngeal paralysis, and our brachycephalic (flat faced) companion such as pugs, bulldogs (English and French) and Boston Terriers to name a few. If you are concerned your pet may be suffering from heat exhaustion, it is best to seek emergency veterinary care as soon as possible.

Most of us love going to the beach and the waterways here in Florida. One thing we often forget is that our canine companions don’t wear shoes like we do. That being said, we want to urge  you to be very cautious of the temperatures of the surface that your pup may be walking on. IF IT FEELS HOT TO YOU, IT IS HOT TO THEM! Severe burns can take place in just a few minutes of walking on these hot surfaces. Also, in regards to our coastal waters, the shallow Intracoastal Waterway accesses are great, but remember to be careful of oyster beds which can cause severe lacerations on paw pads. 

Another area of concern in our region that occurs in our summer weather, is venomous snake bites. Our most common culprits are cottonmouths (Water Moccasin), copperheads, and pygmy rattlesnakes. These snakes are not only found in the woods, they can also creep into your backyard, especially, if you live near a marsh, or are in an area that has a lot of new construction. If you suspect your dog has been bitten by a snake, even if  you’re not sure it’s venomous, you should seek emergency care so your pet can be evaluated. Venomous snake bites can lead to severe pain, swelling, and even bleeding issues, which often require aggressive treatment. 

This is by no means an all-inclusive list of emergencies we see in the summertime, it is a brief overview of what to be aware of here in sunny Florida. If you are ever concerned that your pet may be suffering from a possible emergency, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at First Coast Veterinary ER. 


Matt Mizesko, DVM (with the help of my great colleagues, Dr. Nash and Dr. Vukich)

Photography by Aristotle Montemayor

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