Beach Safety for You and Your Dog
You know Summer has arrived when you can pack up the cooler with hotdogs, load up the car, grab the dog leash, and head out to the local beach. A day with sun and sand brings some of the best adventures for you and your dog, but also some unexpected dangers. What to look out for, how to protect your pooch from beach dangers, as well as basic etiquette while enjoying the wind in your hair (or ears) are all covered in the following article:
We all know that drinking salt water is a big no-no and even drinking fresh lake water can bring a long trip to the bathroom. Unfortunately, your dog may have missed that memo. When heading out to the beach always bring a portable water dish and keep it filled with fresh, clean water for your dog. If they start to drink the water from the beach, quickly remove them and bring them to their water bowl. Drinking salt water can cause nausea, dehydration and vomiting, so keep an eye on your dog if they indulge in some locally sourced hydration.
Fresh water, while good for hydration, can bring with it bacterial, viral or parasitic concerns that may be a problem later. Be sure to check in with your vet if your dog shows symptoms of intestinal parasites and try to discourage them from drinking lake or stream water by keeping fresh water available to them at all times.
Another water concern is your dogs’ swimming ability. While most public beaches have calm waters and easy swimming areas, unknown waters sometimes have strong tides and unexpected currents. A dog who is a little too daring can find themselves farther out than they have strength to swim back, so careful monitoring may be needed.
Along with this concern is the typical dangers associated with a dog swimming: not all dogs are created equally, some are excellent swimmers and some need a little extra help. Flat nosed or barrel-legged dogs will need some extra help as they typically have a difficult time staying afloat. Even the best swimmers may have difficulty in the water. Some dogs can panic while swimming, some just get tired out and stop swimming, some get disoriented and fail to find their way back to the shore. In all cases, using a doggy lifejacket can help your dog enjoy the water without worrying they will get in over their head.
Similar to dangers from the water, just being at the beach can present different dangers to your dog that need watching out for. On a hot, sunny day, overheating is a real possibility. Excessive panting, lack of energy, and disorientation are all symptoms your dog is getting overheated or dehydrated and needs to take a break in the shade. While fresh, cool water can provide a lot of relief from overheating, a shady spot to rest is equally important.
Providing a shaded area for breaks is also important for the sun-sensitive breeds who burn easily. Dogs with pink noses, white-coated dogs, or dogs with thin coats are all highly susceptible to sun burns, just like humans. Even dogs with dark thick coats may get sun burns on their noses or stomachs, where fur doesn’t provide as much protection. As human sunscreen does have toxic ingredients your dog may ingest, look out for pet-approved formulas to coat your dogs’ nose, ears, underside and insides of their legs for extra protection. Very pale dogs may benefit from a white t-shirt to provide solar protection.
Keep an eye on paws and legs in case of burns from the hot sand or cuts from broken bottles. If you live in an appropriate area to worry about rock fish, jelly fish or other sea life, watersport dog booties might be a good investment. Periodic checking of your dog for injuries during your beach visit and before leaving for home can catch a cut before it causes too much trouble. In the event of these injuries, be sure to pack a pet safety kit with items to treat any injuries your dog might pick up at the beach.
Finally, it is always a good idea to wait for your dog to have all their vaccinations and preventative medicines before their first trek to the beach. While on a visit your dog might come across other unvaccinated pets, unexpected parasites, and stress their bodies enough to become ill. While the beach is not an especially dangerous place, it can be for dogs whose bodies are not ready to brave new exposures.
Otherwise known as common sense behaviors, these safety tips can be very simple habits that are very important for people with dogs. Just like you wouldn’t like a misbehaving dog as your neighbor, you also should bring your dog to the beach (full of people) if they aren’t able to have basic manners. Don’t let your dog harass other beachgoers, other pets on the beach, or run all over other people’s spaces. Practice excellent recall with your pooch so you can bring them back to you when they are intent on chasing that seagull.
Not all beach areas are open to visitors. Dunes, rehabilitation efforts, and private property will not appreciate a four-footed traveler, so a long-leash might be a good option if your dog still has difficulty respecting boundaries. Likewise, beaches are important nesting grounds for several species of birds and other wildlife. While your dog will follow natural instincts to hunt and play with birds and their nests, this can severely impact repopulation efforts. Try to keep your dog away from nesting areas and discourage them from making friends with the locals - flying and furred alike.
Other timely tips for beach safety is basic housekeeping: always pick up after your dog, and notify other beach goers if their dog makes a donation while they are not looking. Before leaving, be sure to fill in any holes your dog digs on the beach to minimize your impact at your favorite watering hole. Above all, it is always polite to leave the beach exactly as you found it.
While most of these safety points seem like common sense, in the rush to pack up the towels and hit the surf it can be easy to forget to look out for your furry friend. With some simple preparations and pointers, you and your pooch can enjoy your time in the sun and enjoy another day.
By Lauren Pescarus