Dogs Lovers in Hilton Head:
Summer Heat Precautions

How’d you like to spend the next few months in a fur coat? For most dogs in the Lowcountry, that’s what the summer will feel like.  With June under way, now’s the time for dog owners to take special precautions to keep canines comfortable and healthy throughout the spring and summer. It’s also important for owners to understand and follow local regulations so that all of us — animals and humans alike — can live together harmoniously amid the soaring Lowcountry temperatures.

Clover & Caymen explore the tidal beach in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Photo provided by Claire Thompson


Love to walk your dog along the big blue? Heads up: Memorial Day marked a change in pet policy on Hilton Head Island beaches. Animals are not permitted between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. through Labor Day. At all other times, pets must be on a leash or under positive voice control. Pets are still allowed on the beach at Hunting Island State Park in Beaufort. Dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet or under positive voice control. Though it should go without saying, people with animals on any beach are required to clean up after their pets — so don’t forget your plastic bags.


Many of us love the Lowcountry for its climate and natural beauty. But high temperatures and humidity create potentially dangerous situations for our pets. Driving around town with a furry co-pilot can be fun, but your pup would likely be more comfortable lounging at home in the A/C. And with your dog at home, you can’t leave him in the car. Dr. Ben Parker of Coastal Veterinary Clinic in Bluffton said an animal can suffer a heat stroke within minutes in a vehicle with a cracked window — even in the shade. “With a heat stroke,” Parker said, “the animal’s body temperature rises to 107 degrees or more, causing swelling in the brain and destruction of internal organs.” If your dog does experience a heat stroke, cool down the animal with cold water and immediately take him to a veterinarian, Parker said. Leaving an animal in anunattended vehicle isn’t only dangerous — it’s illegal. Beaufort County’s animal control ordinance defines the act as animal cruelty, and violations of the law can result in a fine of more than $1,000 or jail time. Toni Lytton, director of Beaufort County Animal Shelter & Control, said people who are concerned about an animal in an unattended car should call their local law enforcement before calling animal control. Most often, a local officer will be able to respond the fastest. “If the animal is in distress, we will take action to help it,” Lytton said.  Play it safe: Leave the mutt at home.

Adjust your schedule to walk your dog in the morning and evening, avoiding peak temperatures in the afternoon. Be careful of hot surfaces such as sidewalks and asphalt — they can burn the pads on a dog’s paws.


When your dog is frolicking in the sunshine, always provide ample shade and water. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Signs of heat stress include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting or a deep red or purple tongue. If your pet does become overheated, cool down the animal with cold water and immediately take him to a veterinarian. Like us, animals are susceptible to sunburns. Pets with light-colored noses, light-colored fur on their ears or thin hair are particularly vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer. Pick up special sunscreen for dogs at your favorite pet store.

Warmer temperatures welcome a bevy of critters to our yards and neighborhoods, and curious dogs can easily find themselves face to face with a venomous snake. “Most of the snake bites I have seen over the past 20 years have involved copperheads,” Parker said. “I think this is due to copperheads being the most numerous and aggressive.” Parker said dogs tend to be bitten around the face, with pain and swelling evident almost immediately. If your dog is bitten by a snake, call your vet as soon as possible — but forget about trying to wrangle the guilty snake. It might bite you, too, Parker said.