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The Top 10 Hazards at the Beach for Your Dog

Picture of a dog sitting in the water

The beach is a popular destination for people and their pooches when temperatures start to soar. With more and more public beach properties now permitting dogs to enjoy frolicking in the sand and sun on their premises, bringing Fido along to enjoy a seaside adventure has become a very popular activity. Yet, the beach harbors a number of hazards that can potentially harm dogs during their playtime in the sand and surf. Wise owners will put precautions in place to help keep their dogs safe while at the beach.

Common Dangers to Avoid at the Beach

While spending the day at the beach can be a ball, it can also end badly if a dog comes into contact with one of the dangers that can be lurking in the sand and the surf.

Here is our list of the top 10 hazards found at the beach and what can be done to avoid them:

  1. Undertows

While many public beaches do permit dogs to swim in their waters, care must still be taken to keep Fido safe. Because lakes, rivers, and oceans are subject to current change and undertows when the weather is far less than favorable, care must be taken to only permit a dog to enter the water when it is safe. Allowing a dog free rein of the beach when the water is rough is a situation that could prove very dangerous, and even fatal, for the dog.

Before heading to the beach for the day, it is always a good idea to check the local forecast and to heed any warnings to avoid swimming if the waters aren’t calm. Another great precaution families can take is to choose a beach that offers lifeguard service. Beaches which provided supervised swimming pay careful attention to changes to the water and will not permit people or their dogs to enter the lake or ocean if there is any potential for danger.

But even when the water is calm and suitable for swimming, dogs should be carefully supervised when practicing their best doggy paddle in the lake. Many dogs become so excited when out for a swim that they paddle too far out, become fatigued, and lack the energy to return to shore. Should this happen to a dog, it is possible the dog could become lost or succumb to drowning. Keeping an eye on Fido prevents this tragedy from happening.

Though dogs should never be permitted to swim when there is an undertow or the current is too strong, there are several things owners can do to ensure the safety of their pooches. Making use of a life jacket is an excellent means to ensure a dog remains afloat. In addition to this, limiting the amount of time Fido spends taking a swim will help to prevent fatigue, a common problem which could end in disaster for a dog. 

  1. Salt water

Though dogs do work up a lather during their day of beach fun, drinking salt water can be extremely harmful for them. Ingesting salt water can lead to gastrointestinal distress which can range from mild to severe. If the dog drinks a lot of the salt water, the electrolyte balance in his body may be thrown off which can cause such health problems as kidney and brain damage. To ensure a dog doesn’t turn to the ocean for a drink when thirsty, it is best to bring along drinking water from home and to ensure the dog has opportunity to take a sip or two whenever the mood strikes him.

However salt water poses more than just the risk of dehydration or stomach discomfort. Since dogs accidentally ingest water during a swim, they can be prone to a condition known as “dry drowning.” Dry drowning occurs when a dog’s lungs become engulfed with liquid, interfering with the dog’s ability to breathe properly. One of most concerning things about dry drowning is that it can occur hours and days after the day at the beach when the water was ingested.

  1. Cold temperatures

Not all bodies of water are created equally when it comes to swimming. Some waters found at favored swimming locales remain cold year-round while others are warmed by the sun’s rays, making them feel more similar to bath water.

Dogs pay no heed to water temperature and simply plunge in with great enthusiasm. However, dogs can be prone to developing hypothermia in water that is exceedingly cold. As a general rule of thumb; if the water is too chilly for humans to safely enjoy, it is too cold for a dog as well. 

  1. Insects

Unlike families that head to the beach to enjoy a vacation, bugs don’t take a holiday. Many different insects take refuge in the sand, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to attach themselves to Fido’s coat and skin and hitchhike their way into a new home.

Among the most common insects found in the sand at beaches are sand fleas, isopods, beach spiders, mosquitoes, and kelp flies. Each of these nuisance creatures can cause dogs a lot of discomfort. To avoid coming in contact with them, be certain to bring along a blanket or crate pad for Fido to lie on. Preventing direct contact with the undercarriage of the dog and sand is one of the most effective means to avoid these creepy critters.

Other insects that fly in search of a new host to pester including mosquitoes can be kept at bay through the judicious use of a bug repellent formulated specifically for pet use. 

  1. Blue green algae

Blue green algae, a toxic substance also known as cyanobacteria, flourishes in fresh water in climates known for weather that is both hot and sunny. Extremely poisonous to dogs, many pooches are infected with blue green algae through infected water that is accidentally inhaled during a swim. Blue green algae is extremely dangerous. Even ingesting a very small amount of it can kill a dog.

Thankfully, blue green algae is quite easy to identify. Water that is contaminated with it will bear a hue that is similar to an army green slime. Dogs affected by blue green algae toxicity will display the following symptoms: seizures, panting, drooling, diarrhea, disorientation, respiratory distress or failure, and vomiting. The end result of blue green algae poisoning is liver failure and/or death. 

  1. Irritated skin

There are many different elements at the beach that can cause a dog’s skin to feel raw and irritated. Salt water can be extremely drying to the skin, causing a dog to feel itchy when dry. Other skin irritants found at the beach include sand, stones, kelp, and other debris found at the bottom of the lake, river, or ocean bed.  

  1. Sunburns

The sun’s rays are extremely potent and can cause sunburn in dogs that aren’t prepared. Owners should avoid taking their dogs to the beach during the hottest times of day, visiting instead before 11 AM and after 3 PM. This will help prevent overt exposure to the heat thus reducing the risk of both sunburn and heatstroke. As an added layer of protection, all dogs should have a sunscreen designed for pet use applied to their coat and exposed skin.

Providing a blanket in a shaded area will also give Fido a place to retreat to when he is feeling too hot and is looking for a spot to cool down and relax.

  1. Heat on feet

Sand and pavement can heat up very quickly during the lazy days of summer. Since dogs have very sensitive paw pads, they can easily scorch the skin on their feet if walking on either of these surfaces during the hottest times of day.

Owners should test the heat of these surfaces with their own feet prior to allowing their dogs to walk on them. If the sand or pavement is too hot for their comfort, it is also too hot for their dog’s safety and should be avoided.

Pavement or sand that is too hot can lead to peeling skin and even severe lacerations and burns. 

  1. Broken glass

Unfortunately, people are often not as careful at the beach as they should be with their trash and much of it can end up in the sand, meaning a dog could easily step in it. Though it is impossible to avoid every sharp object that is hiding in the sand, it is important to do a cursory glance around the beach before deciding to let Fido go for a run along the shore. This allows owners to detect the presence of harmful objects and select an area of the beach that appears to be the most safe.

Other common problems, owners may encounter at the beach include barnacles and urchins. Urchins hide along the shoreline and in the sand. When a dog steps on them, they sting the dog’s paw, leaving the dog suffering with a lot of pain. Though urban legend says urchin stings can be neutralized with urine, this is a common fallacy. To treat a dog that has been stung by a sea urchin, it is first necessary to remove the urchin’s spiny thorns from the dog’s paw using tweezers. The area should then be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water. If necessary, a veterinarian can provide pain medication to help alleviate any discomfort.

Barnacles are tiny little creatures with shells that are similar to other crustaceans such as lobster, shrimp, and crabs. If a dog steps on a barnacle, it will sting, causing the dog great discomfort.

The best course of action is prevention when it comes to glass, urchins, and barnacles. By carefully surveying the area before selecting a spot to set up camp for the day, owners can keep the potential for injuries from these items to an absolute minimum.

However, no trip to the beach with a dog should be undertaken without a dog first aid kit which contains such important items as tweezers, anti-diarrhea medication, rubbing alcohol(for cleaning wounds), Benadryl (for allergic reactions), gauze, surgical tape, and more. 

 Sand

Though sand feels pleasant on the paw pads when taking a stroll at the beach, it can lead to irritation when it is nestled against the skin. After a day spent playing in the sand, it is a good idea to give the dog a thorough hosing down outdoors prior to a bath, blow dry, and a proper brushing to remove as much sand from the coat as possible. This process may need to be repeated over a period of several days before all of the sand is finally gone.

Yes, there are many hazards dogs can encounter while at the beach. But with a few precautions firmly in place, Fido can still enjoy the sand and the surf without falling victim to any of the dangers that can be found during a visit to the seashore. Plan a trip to the beach for Fido and the whole fam today!

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