Digging in the sand, barking at seagulls and stealing fallen chips from picnic blankets – the beach is one of Phoebe and Frank’s favourite places to visit. During our week down on the south coast, the Scamps enjoyed two full beach days and a few half days at some of the best dog friendly beaches that Cornwall has to offer, from Perranporth to Fistral.
But the beach can pose potential dangers for dogs, including hot sand, jellyfish and salt water. Head vet Sean McCormack at tails.com has revealed his top tips to help keep your pet safe when visiting the coast.
Beware of hot sand
We all know about the seven second rule for tarmac, but with all the excitement of a beach day, it’s easy to forget to check the sand before you walk across it.
Sean said: “Sand can become extremely hot and reach dangerous temperatures during the summer months. Your dog’s sensitive paw pads could easily burn when playing in the sand. Wherever possible, keep your dog from walking on sand that’s exposed to the direct sun, and monitor your pet’s paw pads for signs of burning, such as redness, blisters and swelling.
“The beach is no place for your four-legged friend when the temperature is high. Try to beat the heat and visit before 9 am or after 6 pm – and always check the sand and ground temperature before allowing your dog to run, walk or play.”
To keep paws out of the sand, we always set up a pop up tent for the dogs (and dad), which also provides shade from the sun.
Stop your pup from eating sand
Luckily, Phoebe and Frank don’t do this, but some dogs really take a liking to eating sand, which can cause a blockage.
Sean said: “Sand is unavoidable when visiting the beach, and believe it or not, some dogs are known to eat sand, mostly by accident, but some pups do it purposefully. Swallowing sand is extremely dangerous for dogs as it can cause a blockage in the intestine, which is called sand impaction.
“If your dog is vomiting, showing signs of constipation, has abdominal pain, reduced appetite, or is lethargic after a trip to the beach, this may indicate that a large amount of sand has been ingested. If you notice that your dog is displaying any of these symptoms, consult a veterinarian immediately. When at the beach, keep a close eye on your pup and prevent them from eating any sand and bring water to clear toys of large clumps of sand.”
“A fun day at the beach can turn into a disaster if you don’t take the correct precautions,” said Sean. “For your dog, heatstroke can develop quickly, especially when shade isn’t provided. Our furry friends can’t handle the hot temperatures like us humans because they only have sweat glands in their feet and nose, which are less efficient at cooling themselves down.”
Always make sure your dog has plenty of shade, whether it be a pop up tent, umbrella, windbreaker or canopy. Sean added: “If you see your dog panting and drooling excessively, and their gums have become more red than normal, they could be experiencing heatstroke. In this case, you’ll need to get out of the sun and cool your dog down.”
Bring plenty of fresh water
We love out Beco collapsible bowl for the beach, and always pack it for day trips and holidays. We fill a rucksack just for the dogs packed with treats and water to keep them hydrated throughout the day. Most beaches have refill taps, or nearby pubs where you can also grab extra water.
Sean said: “Dogs love the beach, but playing fetch, jumping the waves, and swimming can all lead to a very thirsty dog. When our furry friends are thirsty, they will almost drink anything – and this includes seawater.
“Saltwater consumed in small quantities is usually not harmful and may only cause diarrhoea, but drinking larger amounts can disrupt the fluid balance in your dog’s body, and high levels of salt can be fatal for your dog. It’s essential when heading to the beach to bring a dog bowl and fresh water for your pup to drink.”
Pack dog-friendly sunscreen
Dogs can get sunburned just like us – particularly on their noses, ears or areas where hair is sparse, like Phoebe’s belly.
Sean advised: “Just like us, dogs can quickly get burned from sun exposure. Sunburn can not only cause pain for your four-legged friend but can lead to more severe health problems, such as skin cancer.
“Dogs that typically have thin hair or light coloured coats are more vulnerable to sunburn, for example; Dalmatians, Boxers, Greyhounds, Beagles, Whippets and Bulldogs. But all dog breeds are at risk of sun damage because they all have areas on their body where there is little to no fur, including the belly, ears, the tip of the tail and nose.”
Sean recommends buying dog friendly sunscreen designed for dogs, which should not contain zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid – we use the Petskin range on Phoebe and Frank.
Protect your pups from parasites
Sean warned: “Ticks are prevalent near beaches. They can be found in the dunes or in the grass nearby, and when our canine companions walk by and brush up against these, the ticks dislodge.”
Touch wood, The Scamps have never had a tick – but I always carry a tick remover in a dog first aid kit just in case. They’re quite common at the beach, so avoid letting them play in sand dunes or long grass on coastal walks if possible.
Keep them safe in the water
The sea poses a few different dangers for dogs, from unexpected waves and tides, to hidden hazards buried in the sand, like broken glass or sharp rocks.
Sean recommends a long line leash so your dog can paddle – but not too far – as well as a doggy life jacket for safety. He added: “The sea is full of hidden dangers, from sharp shells and rocks to broken glass and washed-up rubbish. All of these items can be dangerous to your dog’s paw pads. Not only can some of the items be sharp and cut your pup, but they can also be dangerous if eaten. They can cause bacterial infections, cracked teeth or intestinal obstructions.
“Protect your pooch by investing in some dog-friendly beach boots and never leave them unattended in the water or on dry land.”
Keep clear of seaweed and sea creatures
Weaver fish are one of my biggest beach fears, and up to yet, I’ve not been stung (but my brother has – twice!) Creatures like these, and jellyfish, may look like a toy to dogs, but curiosity killed the canine.
Sean said: “Natural objects found in the sea that wash up on the beach, such as seaweed, dead or alive creatures, might be fun to play with but could cause serious health issues for your dog. When consumed, seaweed can be dangerous as it can cause a blockage in your dog’s intestine.
“Keep a close eye on your pup and prevent them from rolling in or eating anything that could make them ill. Some beaches have high levels of sea creatures, such as jellyfish and crabs, so be sure to keep them on a tight watch around the water area.
”It’s really important as dog owners that we don’t allow our dogs to chase or disturb marine wildlife, for example, seal pups and marine birds can be prone to be disturbed by dogs. Our wild animals are just as important as our pets so it’s important to be responsible around wildlife.”
Don’t let your dog drink seawater
“Seawater contains a high balance of salt, approximately 35 grams of salt in every 1 litre (1000 ml). If your dog drinks too much it can quickly become dehydrated, and symptoms can worsen if your dog isn’t provided with fresh drinking water,” said Sean.
The high levels of salt in the seawater can disrupt the fluid balance in your dog’s body, drawing water from the blood into your dog’s intestines. If your dog has ingested too much seawater, it can start to display the following symptoms;
- Lack of appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Instability, loss of coordination
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive thirst or urination
Sean added: “If you recognise these signs within your pup during your trip to the beach, you need to get them to the vet as soon as possible. If left untreated they could suffer serious kidney damage, brain damage and rapid dehydration which could prove fatal.”
Be sure to keep offering fresh, clean water between paddles in the sea, and keep an eye on them if they do start to try and drink seawater.
Read more: What to pack for dogs when going on holiday