What better way to spend a hot summer day than to take your canine buddy to the beach? The prospect of having a great place to play and run, combined with the cooling effects of nearby ocean water, draw many of us to the beaches with our dogs during warm weather. There are, however, several things to consider before you load your buddy in the car and head for the sand.
Find a dog-friendly beach
Your primary concern should be whether dogs are allowed, either on or off leash, at the beach you intend to visit. Most public beaches have requirements for control of your dog posted, and you ignore them at your peril. If the beach is part of a wildlife or bird sanctuary dogs may not be allowed at all, and you will need to find another location for your summertime fun. Many municipalities levy stiff fines for flouting the dogs-on-beach regulations, so it’s wise to know what restrictions apply before you and pooch head out for an afternoon of sea air and sand.
Ingesting salt water
If your dog likes to retrieve tennis balls or other absorbent objects from the water, he may be at risk of ingesting salt water. It doesn’t take much sea water to cause salt water poisoning in your canine buddy, so be sure to take along fresh water for him, and offer it to him every 15 minutes or so. This will discourage him from actually drinking the salt water.
Ingestion of salt water by your dog can lead to dehydration, a sudden spike in sodium levels in his system, vomiting, projectile diarrhea (sometimes with blood and mucus), lack of coordination and seizures. In extreme cases of salt water poisoning dogs have been known to die.
Be sure that the sand isn’t too hot for your pet’s feet before you head out on the beach. You also need to be aware of sharp rocks, shells and other items that could rip at your dog’s paws and cause infection or lameness.
Beware of sea creatures
Many dogs are curious about the sea creatures that often litter beaches. Favourites among our own dogs were always dead fish and shellfish, which they took great delight in chowing down on. Depending on the level of decay, ingestion of these items can cause vomiting or diarrhea if you don’t make your dog drop the item and leave it on the beach. There is also the risk that he will get fish bones stuck in his throat or intestines.
Starfish can also be a hazard if your dog decides he would like to snack on one. Oral irritation and upset stomach are commonplace when dogs chew on starfish so best, again, to make your canine buddy leave it if he discovers one during your beach adventure.
Jellyfish come in all sorts of colours, including clear. Again, these can pose a problem if your dog even so much as sniffs at one – jellyfish have the ability to deliver quite severe stings. Although generally found in seawater, they are also often seen on beaches. Keep a keen eye out for these (especially the clear ones, which just show up the same colour as the sand) and be sure to keep both yourself and your pooch clear of them.
Lather on that SPF
Dogs with short coats may also need some sort of protection from the sun. There are now dog-specific sunscreens on the market, but in a pinch, you can use a sunscreen designed for human babies with an SPF of 15 or higher. It is important, however, to read the label on any human sunscreen to ensure that it doesn’t contain zinc oxide or PABA. If your dog licks sunscreen with these ingredients it can be toxic.
Post beach care
Finally, once you get your pooch home from the beach it’s a good idea to give him a good rinse-off with clean water. It will help remove any sand that may be in his coat, along with the salt water. Even though the seawater may have dried on your dog it can cause itchiness, so a quick rinse – no shampoo needed, as a rule – will help prevent discomfort for your pet, and a sand-filled home for you.
Take the right precautions, and you and your dog will have a great time at the beach. The very best exercise for any dog is swimming, but even if your dog just prefers to paddle, watch the fish in the water or lie in the tide pools, it will be an enjoyable outing for both of you. Happy beach day!
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