Dog beaches are great places for your furry friends to cool off and have fun during the hot months of summer. Spending time in the water can provide great exercise and mental stimulation for dogs, but be aware of potential dangers of going to beaches, even beaches that are specially designated for use with dogs. Dr. Brittany Jaeger, a veterinarian in the critical care service of BluePearl Veterinary Partners, explained some of those dangers:
Salt water intake – Dog owners should be aware of salt water poisoning, which occurs when dogs drink too much salt water. Dogs often will swallow a small amount of salt water while playing on the beach, so it is normal to notice minor diarrhea or frequent urination. But if your dog vomits, refuses meals, becomes lethargic or displays neurological issues, your dog is most likely suffering from salt water poisoning, the result of dangerously high levels of sodium in the bloodstream. Seek immediate veterinary care If you notice these signs. To avoid salt water poisoning, make sure your dog always has plenty of freshwater nearby.
Overheating – Your dog’s body does not relieve itself of heat as efficiently as a human body does, so overheating is a serious and common beach danger. Unlike humans, dogs lack the ability to sweat, so they can easily overheat on the hot sand and even in the water. Signs of overheating in dogs include excessive panting, shortness of breath and gastrointestinal distress. Your dog may also try to lie on a cool surface, such as tile, in an attempt to relieve the heat.
If you suspect your dog is overheating, give her water, get her into a cool environment and lay a towel soaked in cool, fresh water on her body. But if your dog won’t stop panting, can’t get up and is not alert, get her to your closest emergency pet hospital immediately.
Black dogs, long-haired dogs and obese dogs are more prone to overheating. If your dog does not already have short fur, consider shaving the fur so it is much shorter during summer months.
Aggressive dogs – Especially at off-leash beaches, it is important to watch for aggressive behavior in other dogs. The dangers are similar to those in dog parks. Dog fights can turn serious very quickly, so it is important know how your dog interacts with others.
Sunburn – Believe it or not, dogs can also get sunburn. While white dogs are more prone to sunburn and skin cancer, it is essential for all dogs to avoid too much sun exposure. Make sure your dog also gets time in the shade to avoid to damaging effects of the sun’s rays.
Drowning – Your dog may be a skillful swimmer, but many factors could result in a dog drowning. Knowing your dog’s swimming abilities is critical. If your dog is not a strong swimmer, walk into the water with the dog and be careful to not throw toys too far. From shy paddlers to ambitious divers, all dogs should be kept away from the water if there are big waves or dangerous currents.
Drowning is more common with small dogs, because they can be accidentally pushed under water by larger dogs during play. If you own small dogs, keep them away from bigger ones.
Drowning and taking water into the lungs are severe medical emergencies. If your dog experiences this, immediately rush him to an emergency pet hospital.
Cuts on feet – Your dog may love the feeling of running on soft sand, but there are many sharp and dangerous materials on the beach. Broken sea shells, coral, rocks and glass could slice your dog’s paws very easily. If your dog gets a cut at the beach clean the wound with clean, fresh water (never salt water) then dress the wound for protection. If the cut is severe and/or bleeding heavily, your dog needs immediate medical attention.
Dr. Jaeger recommends keeping a basic pet first aid kit in your vehicle when travelling to the dog beach.
Infection – At both saltwater and freshwater beaches, the water contains microorganisms and bacteria that may be harmful to your dog. If your dog has an open wound or cut, avoid getting into the water. Still freshwaterand water affected by red tide or other forms of algal bloom carry an increased risk of infection, such as from leptospirosis, in dogs. Make sure to always rinse your dog with fresh, clean water at the end of every beach trip.
Too much exercise – Between endless games of fetch in the water and running with doggy friends on the shore, it is easy for your dog to exercise too much. Some dogs know their own energy limits, while others will dangerously overdo it. Know your dog’s energy levels, and limit activity if you think your dog may be over-exercising without realizing it.
For more information on pet safety at the beach, contact your primary veterinarian.
If you experience a pet emergency at the beach, immediately take your dog to your closest emergency pet hospital.