Dr Victoria Strong is a vet, university lecturer and passionate veterinary communicator. Through her freelance business VIP Professionals she works with pet facing businesses to share reliable veterinary information with pet owners. These are her top tips to keep your dog safe at the beach.
Taking a trip to the beach with your dog is one of life’s most simple yet wonderful pleasures. I remember the first trip I took to the beach with my dog Pepper, when she was just a puppy, like it was just yesterday. We were so excited, we jumped out of the car and ran straight to the sand, forgetting to ‘pay and display’. So, as well as our precious memories, we came away with a parking ticket too.
But unexpected fines are not the only hazard that can await us at the beach. Our dogs can also come away with more than they bargained for. Potential dangers include:
- Heat exhaustion and heatstroke
- Sand impaction
- Cut pads
- Dog fights
- Jellyfish stings
- Intestinal blockages
Dogs at the beach are prone to heatstroke. When planning a trip, take a look at the weather forecast. Visit the beach early or late if it is a hot day, avoid the midday sun. Limit the amount of time they spend in the sun or – better still – consider leaving them at home where you know they can stay cool. Take extra precaution if your dog is elderly, has an underlying heart or lung condition or is one of the breeds shown to be at increased risk.
Keep Them Cool
Dogs can die in hot cars but most UK dog heatstroke cases are exercise induced. Try not to let them run around too much. Remember that their fur means for them, it is like running about in the sun in a knitted jumper, so why not book them in for a groom before they go? Encourage them to take a dip in the sea, provide plenty of shade, and choose a spot with a gentle breeze.
Provide Plenty Of Fresh Water
It’s important they stay hydrated so encourage them to drink little and often. Don’t let them drink the sea water – the high salt content can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and neurological issues.
Don’t Let Them Scavenge
Beaches are a popular spot for picnics and barbecues meaning it is not uncommon to find leftover food. Your dog could eat something toxic (like chocolate, raisins or onions) or develop food poisoning. Chunks of palm oil sometimes wash up on UK beaches – these too can make your dog unwell if eaten. Your dog might also swallow something that could get stuck, like an animal bone, food packaging or fish hook. Once in the stomach, dried seaweed can swell and is also at risk of causing a blockage. If a dog eats too much dry seaweed, the stomach juices can cause it to swell and cause a blockage. Practice commands such as “leave” or “drop” and take some tasty treats to distract them. Take toys with you to stop them playing with things that could cause injuries like sticks.
Keep Your Dog Under Close Control
In the peak of summer, beaches can get very busy. It’s easy for you and your dog to lose one another, and can never be too careful of dog theft these days. There will also be a lot of other dogs about so scuffles and scraps aren’t uncommon. Practice your dog’s recall and if you’re not sure they will be on their best behaviour, consider keeping them on a lead.
Look Out For Sharp Objects
Unfortunately, beaches are often scattered with litter either that people have left or has been washed up by the tide. Broken glass, cans, the edges of rocks, or shells can be sharp and if stepped on or picked up, causing some nasty cuts to a dog’s paw or mouth. Consider taking a basic first aid kit with you to cover any wounds, should they occur.
Don’t Let Them Eat Too Much Sand
Okay, so most dogs won’t eat mouthfuls of sand on purpose but they can inadvertently swallow it if digging, eating food or playing with sandy toys on the beach. Eating sand can cause an upset tummy or, if they swallow enough, a blockage in the intestine.
Apply Sun Cream
Yes, dogs can get sunburn! Whilst most of their skin is covered by hair, there are areas where the hair is absent or sparse such as the nose, on the belly, ear tips and any areas that have been shaved e.g. for surgery. Certain breeds with thin hair covering and those with lighter coloured hair are at increased risk. Apply pet or child safe SPF30+ suncream on “at risk” areas of skin before the beach.
Check The Temperature Of The Sand Is Safe
Especially in the midday sun, the sand can get really hot. Dogs walking on hot sand can suffer burns to their feet. Take off your shoes and socks and check – if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for them.
Be Swim Safe
Swimming against the waves is tiring and even strong swimmers can get caught out by riptides and underwater currents. Dogs swimming or playing in the sea can inadvertently swallow a lot of water putting them at risk of water intoxication or salt poisoning. To keep them safe, keep swimming sessions brief (10-15 mins) and encourage the dog to take regular rest breaks. Watch carefully for signs of fatigue and don’t let them swim too far. Avoid letting them swim if it is choppy and look out for warning signs and flags. Consider buying a doggy life vest to help them stay afloat.
Watch Out For Jellyfish
Dogs step on, lick or sniff jellyfish that are in shallow water or have been washed up on the beach. These can cause a nasty sting, even when they’re dead. Drooling, vomiting, lethargy and signs of pain and irritation can all be signs. Some dogs might suffer an allergic reaction.
The information contained in this article is for general interest only. If you have any concerns or queries about your dog’s health, always consult a vet.
For more articles about how to look after your furry best friend head to Dog Furiendly.