A beach day with your dog often sounds like the perfect summer escape. What could go wrong? Well, unfortunately, enough to comprise a full list. So, before you aspire to bum around the beach with your dog all summer, lift your sunglasses and read about these potential beach dangers for dogs!
1. Parasites and Bacteria
Let’s face it, water can be gross and may contain bacteria, parasites, and fungi. One of the biggest dangers is blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) which can produce hepatotoxins and neurotoxins. Swimming in the water or even drinking a few sips can kill a dog. And it can make you sick, too. If you spot blue-green algae in any water source, you and your dog should stay away!
Other dangers in the water that can affect both of you include zoonotic diseases like giardia, leptospirosis, or internal parasites. Discolored water, cloudy water, blue-green algae, or dead fish on the beach are good indicators to avoid that beach and report unusual sightings to the city. Unfortunately, we can’t always see what is in the water, so it’s also a good idea to regularly check your beach’s website or city’s social media for updates and alerts on water quality. If you don’t know how to find this information for your favorite beach, the Minnesota Department of Health’s Beach Locator may be a helpful place to start.
2. Swimming Safety
Not every dog “just knows” how to swim. If your dog doesn’t have a lot of water experience and doesn’t know how to swim, it’s important to safely teach them. If your dog is resistant to the water, don’t force your pet to go in. We also recommend investing in a dog life jacket with a handle on it, especially for new swimmers and those who venture into deeper waters.
3. Water Intoxication
Yes, even water can be toxic if consumed in large quantities. Too much water can cause increased pressure within the skull which can lead to vomiting, lethargy, loss of balance, seizures, coma, and even death. If you notice your dog frequently lapping up water while swimming and he/she has increased urination, it’s time to take a break from the lake for an hour or so!
4. Salt Water
If your beach has salty water, like Salt Lake, it may be best to leave your dog at home. Drinking salt water may cause vomiting, dehydration, and diarrhea. Salt water can cause sodium poisoning which often causes extreme thirst and excessive urination, but can also cause a variety of neurological, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular symptoms.
Keep in mind that even in land-locked Minnesota, fifty lakes and streams have chloride levels too high to meet the standard to protect aquatic life. That’s due to the salt on our roads running into bodies of water. For more information on where these lakes and streams are located, consult the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s map.
Don’t let your dog eat dry seaweed off the beach. If eaten, it can expand in your dog’s stomach and cause a blockage. Vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite are all indications to seek veterinary care. Also, seaweed may cause an allergic reaction which can range in severity. Always monitor your dog closely and discourage seaweed snacks.
6. Sand Impaction
Dogs who love to dig, play with toys in the sand, or eat anything off the sand are more at risk for sand impaction. While small amounts of sand will likely pass through the GI tract, large amounts of sand can form a blockage in the intestines. The best way to avoid this is to intervene if your dog is deliberately eating sand, wash off any toys that are covered in sand, and don’t throw any treats for your dog directly into the sand.
7. Hot Surfaces
Protect those paw pads! Hot surfaces like asphalt or sand can burn your dog’s paw pads. Before you let your dog walk on a surface, test it with your bare hand or foot. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws! Learn more here.
8. Picnic Foods & Foreign Bodies
Often in public places, dogs will find anything and everything to eat – from toxic foods to litter to random items on the ground! Some things may even be harmful enough to cause a choking hazard or a foreign body, which may require surgical removal. If you are planning a picnic, avoid packing any toxic foods like grapes, or chocolate, as well as hazardous foods like meat bones, fruits with pits or seeds, and corn on the cob. If your beach has a grilling area, promptly throw away any litter you find and keep your dog on a leash to prevent them from raiding anyone else’s picnic baskets!
9. Fishing Hooks
If your favorite beach lake is also a popular fishing lake, be on the lookout for fishing hooks. Often, pets can step on a fishing hook or get one caught on their face or paw if they get too close to the fishing action. Help keep your dog safe by enjoying the beach away from any active fishing and keep an eye out for any stray hooks near shore.
10. Sun Protection
Most pets don’t require sun protection; however, pets with light fur, no hair, very short hair, thin hair, or shaved hair, and pets with underlying conditions worsened by UV rays (such as immune-mediated skin diseases like lupus erythematosus), should take extra precautions in the sun. Avoid peak sun hours (typically 10AM-4PM CST) to prevent any sun damage. Talk to your family veterinarian to find a pet-safe sunscreen, UV protective clothing, or sun protective eye wear.
11. Heat and Dehydration
On a hot and humid day, pets are at an increased risk of overheating or experiencing heat stroke. This is especially true for higher-risk pets. If you choose to go to the beach and let your dog cool off in the lake for a short while, be sure your dog has access to fresh drinking water and shade. Remember, if you’re feeling hot and sweaty, your dog is also feeling that heat, but they can’t sweat like you can. So it’s important to know when it’s time to go home, and always monitor your pet closely for signs of heat stress, such as:
- Excessive panting
- Change in mentation/alertness/responsiveness
- Wobbly walk/inability to walk
- Black, tarry stool
The best way to keep your dog safe at the beach is to always have an eye on them, bring along water and a collapsible dish, avoid unclean bodies of water, and know when it’s time to call it a day! We hope you and your dog have a fun, yet safe, time at the beach this summer!
If your dog does experience an emergency this summer and your family veterinarian is unavailable, both our Oakdale and St. Paul facilities are open 24/7, every day of the year.
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