Going to the seaside is of course the thing to do in hot summery weather! However, if you’re planning to take your pet with you, there are a few things you need to be aware of… For starters, are they actually allowed on the beach? Many beaches ban dogs in the summer season, and you don’t want to make the trek down only to be turned away! However, even if he is permitted to join you, watch out for…
1 – Swimming in the sea
Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs know how to swim! In particular, Pugs and Corgis, are notoriously weak swimmers. Not only is it potentially dangerous for them to go out of their depth, but it can also terrifying to them. Remember too that even strong-swimmers who happily paddle out to join you can get into trouble, just like we can. If the waves are strong, they can be tumbled into rocks, or if there are rip currents, they can be dragged out to sea. If that happens, call for help from the lifeguards or coastguard (dial 999): every year, people drown trying to save pets – don’t put yourself into danger.
If your dog does like to swim, why not get a lifejacket for them? Yes, they do exist – and they’ll keep your pet afloat more or less whatever happens.
2 – Drinking the sea
Another myth – salt water doesn’t usually make dogs (or even humans for that matter) vomit. What drinking salt water does do is cause a disease called hypernatraemia, where the sodium level in the blood becomes dangerously high. This is also known as salt poisoning, and results in dehydration of the brain and ultimately strokes and cerebral haemorrhages. The early symptoms are usually lethargy, weakness and wobbliness (a bit like being drunk), but this may rapidly progress to seizures, coma and death. If you notice dogs drinking sea water – stop them and offer fresh water instead. They’re drinking it because they’re a bit dehydrated, but of course, it’s only going to make matters worse.
In addition, seawater contains a wide range of bacteria (which can cause stomach upsets), and if it’s a shallow rock pool, dogs can even swallow enough sand to cause a blocked bowel (which may require expensive emergency surgery).
The best prevention is to make sure you have a generous supply of fresh water available for them to drink!
3 – Heatstroke and Sunburn
On a golden sandy beach without shade, a dog can develop heatstroke incredibly rapidly – remember, they have a thick furry coat insulating them, and they can’t sweat! They can only pant, which dehydrates them. Symptoms of heatstroke include excessive drooling, very heavy panting, lethargy or drowsiness, wobbliness or incoordination, and then vomiting and collapse.
Dogs can also get sunburned – especially on their bellies, noses and the tips of their ears where the fur is thinner. Over time, repeated sunburn can increase the risk of skin cancer, especially in pink-skinned individuals.
Finally, don’t forget how hot the sand is! If you can’t stand on it comfortably, nor can your dog…
All these risks can be minimised by providing a shady spot for your dog, plenty of fresh water, and using a dog-safe sunscreen. However, if your dog is uncomfortably hot, try and find somewhere else to spend the day!
4 – Sea Creatures
In the UK we’re lucky – the critters that swim around us aren’t too bad. However, there are a couple of beasties to watch out for. The most dangerous things your dog is likely to come across are jellyfish – they can give a nasty sting, and if it’s on the nose, the swelling can make breathing difficult. Do watch out for crabs in rock pools too – a big crab can give a nasty nip! The only other really dangerous animal is a seal – dogs occasionally think that these animals are other dogs and try to play, but seals often have a nasty temper and a nasty bite, so do be careful.
Essentially, keep a close eye on your pet and what (or who) they’re playing with!
5 – Food and Drink
Remember, just because you’re at the beach, it doesn’t mean that all the normal things don’t apply! Chocolate (even as an ice cream), grapes, onions and so on are still toxic; watch out too for skewers and hot coals on the BBQ!
6 – Sharp, Steep and Slippery Places
The biggest risk to dogs at the beach actually seems to be physical injury, from sharp rocks or flotsam washed up (often containing glass and plastic nowadays), steep cliffs, or slippery rocks. Make sure you have good shoes or sandals on and keep your dog under close control.
Most dogs love going to the beach, so just make sure you can keep them safe there! And, if you’re going away, make sure you have the number of a local vet – just in case.