Most dogs love the beach. The good grip the sand provides is perfect for zoomies, the water supplies ample opportunity for wading and swimming, and most of all, they get to spend a whole day with their humans!
Unfortunately, the beach has many hidden dangers which dogs can easily fall victim to. Many dog owners aren’t aware of these until it’s just too late. So if you’re planning to take your dog to the beach this summer, make sure you keep the following advice in mind!
1. Check when you can take your dog to the beach
Unfortunately, not all beaches are dog-friendly. Most beaches are open to dogs in the autumn and winter, but during the summer, they close to make way for humans instead. While this can be annoying for dog owners, the reason is that beaches can be packed during the warmer months. You wouldn’t want your dog running off to beach-goers to snatch their food or poo in front of their towels! Plus, it’s a sad fact that many people discard dangerous waste on the beach after having lounged there for a day. You wouldn’t want your dog eating or stepping on anything dangerous like a barbecue skewer or a piece of broken glass!
Before taking your dog to the beach, check whether that beach allows dogs. It would be a shame to go all that way and not be able to enter - and there’s no way you’re leaving the dog in the car while you go enjoy the seaside!
2. Provide sun and shade in hot weather
The beach has the perfect conditions to provoke sunstroke. It’s hot, there’s no shade, and the only water available is salted! Heatstroke can be extremely dangerous for your dog and even fatal if left untreated. If you’re taking your dog to the beach in the summer when it’s warm and the sun is out, then go prepared!
Bring an umbrella with you, and a cooler complete with a cooling pad, a doggy water bottle, and maybe even a few frozen treats. Don’t hesitate to bring lots of water: Some for your dog to drink, and some for you to pour on their coat if they seem to be getting very hot. If your dog is showing signs of heatstroke, you should leave the beach immediately and find an air conditioned indoor area to help cool them down while you contact a vet.
3. Consider how to introduce your dog to water safely
Not all dogs are born swimmers. In fact, some of them, like top-heavy Bulldogs, can’t swim at all! If you’ve never seen your dog swim before, the ocean probably isn’t the best place for their first swimming lesson. Even when the water looks calm, there can be a strong undercurrent, and if your dog isn’t a strong swimmer, this can quickly lead to disaster.
Consider purchasing a doggy life-vest for your dog if they are attracted to the water. Otherwise, keep a lead on them while they wade in it. And, if they look like they really want to jump in and swim, make sure they’ve had practice swimming in calmer waters like a pool or a lake beforehand.
4. Don’t let them eat sand or drink sea water
Sand ingestion can cause serious intestinal blockages that can only be remedied through surgery. Signs that your dog has ingested sand include lethargy and vomiting - in this case you should take them to the vet’s immediately. It can be hard to prevent sand ingestion because it’s often accidental. If your dog loves to play fetch for instance, it’s likely that they’re ingesting lots of sand as they pick up their ball. To be on the safe side, use toys made out of plastic or rubber that are less likely to pick up sand, like a Frisbee for instance.
When it comes to drinking, make sure you’re providing your dog with plenty of fresh water so they’re not tempted to drink sea water. Sea water is full of salt, which can make your dog very sick and lead to dehydration. If you see your dog trying to drink some, stop them immediately and offer them some fresh water to drink instead.
5. Protect their paw pads and skin
It’s a common misconception that dogs’ paws are tough and can withstand anything. This is simply not true! Just like our feet, dogs’ paws are susceptible to cuts and burns. If you’re visiting a rocky beach, it’s a good idea to apply some paw wax onto your dog’s paw pads before you go. Avoid dry sand as much as possible, as it can get blazing hot and cause burns! If there’s an area on the beach with wet sand, go there instead. Finally, bring a first aid kit along. If your dog gets a nasty cut, it’ll be useful to have some disinfectant and a bandage with you.
When it comes to their skin, dogs are susceptible to sunburns, just like us! This is especially the case for hairless dogs, dogs with very thin coats, and for all dogs when it comes to their ears, nose, and any other area with less fur. You can easily purchase dog-friendly sunscreen online. Apply this to the areas where your dog is most vulnerable.
6. Give them a bath when you get home
Sand and salt will get literally everywhere on your dog while you’re at the beach! Sand can get stuck in their ears and go into their eyes, which can be extremely irritating and can even cause infections! Make sure you clean and dry these areas thoroughly after you get back from the beach.
A good bath is required too, to rid the coat of all the salt. Your dog will probably be tempted to lick himself after a trip to the beach due to the salty taste on their coat, but as mentioned earlier, salt ingestion can be very dangerous for dogs. So get that dog squeaky clean!
Most importantly though, focus on having fun! As long as you keep these safety tips in mind, you're in for a great day of bonding with your dog!