7 Florida Dangers Every Pet Owner Needs to Know About

Visiting or moving to the Sunshine State with pets? Here are 7 Florida dangers every pet owner needs to know!

Mar 8, 2024By Lauren Rey
florida dangers every pet owner needs to know about

Like every state, Florida has its own unique climate, local flora and fauna, and dangers that pet owners should be aware of. Whether you’re planning a Florida vacation with your four-legged friend or moving to the state permanently — here’s your guide to Florida dangers so you can keep your pet safe, happy, and healthy in the Sunshine State!

7. Dangerous Wildlife in Florida

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Florida is full of natural beauty like forests, lakes, and wetlands, and in many places around the state, it’s literally right in your backyard. A vast system of connected freshwater lakes and canals can be found in almost every suburban neighborhood. If you’re new to Florida, the number one rule when it comes to freshwater is — there’s probably a gator in it! Yes, even that small pond in your backyard. Alligators are found in bodies of water throughout the entire state. Because of this, you should never let your pets swim or play near the water’s edge in Florida.

Alligators are ambush predators and will lie in wait under the water where you likely won’t see them until it’s too late. Sadly, many dogs (and even people) have been attacked this way. Florida also has crocodiles, although they are more common in the coastal areas in the southern part of the state. A good rule of thumb to keep your pet safe in Florida — keep them leashed and far away from the water!

bufo toad
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While alligators are probably the most dangerous wildlife associated with Florida, there are other dangers pet owners should know. Florida has venomous snakes, poisonous bufo toads, coyotes, feral hogs, black bears, and panthers. Unless you’re hiking deep in the wilderness, your chances of having a run-in with a bear, panther, or hog are rare, but depending on where you live, snakes, toads, and coyotes can be right in your backyard.

Venomous snakes, especially the water moccasin, can be found near lakes and canals and have been known to occasionally slither into backyards. Bufo toads, also called cane toads, are also known to frequent suburban neighborhoods. These toads secrete a substance that is highly toxic to pets. If your pet comes into contact with a poisonous snake or bufo toad — seek veterinary care immediately!

Coyotes are also increasingly being spotted in suburban neighborhoods, due to habitat loss. While typically shy and elusive, they can pose a threat to smaller pets. If you have a cat with outdoor access or a small dog, you’ll want to keep a watchful eye on them while outside and consider using a coyote vest.

6. Natural Disasters in Florida

hurricane evacuation sign
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It’s no secret that Florida is prone to hurricanes, but the state also faces threats from tornados, lightning, floods, and wildfires. All Floridians should have a disaster plan in place that includes their pets. Be sure to have pet-friendly evacuation plans, a disaster kit, and a pet first aid kit. If you’re planning to stay in a hurricane shelter, board your pet at a kennel, or check into a pet-friendly hotel, most require pets to be current on all vaccinations. So, especially during hurricane season — don’t wait to vaccinate your pet!

While hurricanes come with a warning, many Florida disasters don’t. Heavy rains can cause flooding, lightning strikes can cause wildfires, and tornadoes can cause injuries from flying debris. It’s important to stay informed of your local news and heed any warnings of dangerous conditions that might warrant evacuating your pet.

5. Toxic Plants in Florida

sago palm
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Florida is known for its lush tropical landscapes but some of these plants and trees can cause problems for our pets. From native plants like hemlock to sago palms used frequently in landscaping, there are many toxic plants found in Florida.

Protect your pet by familiarizing yourself with what toxic plants are common in your area. The ASPCA Pet Poison Control’s Toxic Plant Library is a great resource for this. Only use pet-friendly landscaping around your home. And, most importantly — keep your pet leashed on walks. Dogs especially, are prone to ingesting toxic plants and other hazards while on walks.

4. Toxic Algae in Florida

blue green algae
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If the threat of alligators wasn’t enough of a good reason to keep your pet out of the water in Florida, meet — toxic algae! At the hottest times of the year, particularly during the summer, Florida lakes can become overrun with toxic algal blooms.

These dangerous algal blooms pose health risks to both people and pets. You and your pet should never swim, play in, drink from, or eat fish from lakes with toxic algae. Signs water is infected include a green foamy appearance, visible algae mats floating on the surface, a foul smell, and dead fish floating in the water.

3. Leptospirosis in Florida

dog near water
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Another good reason to keep your dog out of the water in Florida — the threat of leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that thrives on moisture. It’s commonly found in standing water and moist soil. This disease, which can cause a host of health conditions and even lead to liver and kidney failure, is spread by wildlife, particularly rodents and small mammals. Dogs typically come into contact with Leptospira bacteria from swimming or playing in water, drinking from puddles, or digging in mud or soil.

There are precautions you can take to reduce your dog’s risk of becoming infected with leptospirosis. Keep them away from standing water like lakes and puddles, keep them leashed on walks to reduce run-ins with wildlife like rodents and raccoons, and talk to your vet about the leptospirosis vaccine.

2. Insects in Florida

dog scratching
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If there’s one thing more commonly associated with Florida than alligators, it’s the mighty mosquito. These buzzing, biting nuisances thrive in Florida’s humid, rainy climate and can pose a significant threat to our four-legged friends by spreading heartworm. Unfortunately, Florida is a heartworm hotspot and the disease can be fatal. But Florida pet owners can easily protect their pets with heartworm preventatives.

In addition to mosquitoes, Florida is also full of other creepy crawlies that can pose a danger to our pets, from fleas and ticks to fire ants and venomous spiders. Florida pet owners should exercise caution when outdoors with their pets (especially in wooded areas), seek veterinary care if venomous spider bites occur, and discuss flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives with their veterinarians.

1. Heat and Humidity

dog in car
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While most people are familiar with Florida’s notoriously hot and humid summers, many don’t realize that high temperatures and humidity can occur year-round. It’s not uncommon for temperatures in Florida to frequently top over 80 degrees, even in December. This type of heat can be fatal to our pets, especially dogs.

Heatstroke is an unfortunately common, yet preventable, pet emergency in Florida. It can occur quickly, even on a seemingly short walk. Dogs that are older, overweight, or brachycephalic (breeds with shortened, “smushed” noses like French Bulldogs and Pugs) are especially at risk.

To prevent heatstroke, always be mindful of the temperature and humidity levels when taking your pet outside. Limit walks and playtime to the cooler parts of the day. Never leave a pet alone outside in the heat or in a parked car. And, lastly, learn the signs of heatstroke (like heavy panting, bright red gums, drooling, and disorientation) and seek veterinary care immediately if your pet ever shows signs of overheating.

Lauren Rey
By Lauren Rey

A lover of all animals, Lauren’s background is in the veterinary world, but she is now a content writer on travel, wildlife, and all things pets! She’s based in Florida, but when not writing, she’s usually plotting out a new road trip route with her partner-in-crime. Pickles is a mixed-breed rescue dog that loves hiking, road trips, and Starbucks just as much as her mom does!