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What happens if my dog ate sand?

black terrier dog playing in sand on beach
© fongleon356 - Shutterstock

If you’re lucky enough to have a dog-friendly beach near you, you may be spending lots of time there with your dog. Unfortunately, the beach presents many dangers for your pooch.

By Justine Seraphin

Published on the 20/07/2021, 17:00

Going to the beach with your dog can be a super fun summer experience, but it also presents a lot of risks. And chief among them is sand ingestion!

It’s a little known fact that sand can be very dangerous for dogs if ingested. And while you may think that your dog isn’t in danger of it because they don’t eat sand, know that most cases of sand ingestion are accidental. So if you’re planning on going to the beach this summer, make sure you keep a watchful eye on your pooch!

Taking your dog to the beach this summer? Find a beach in this list of 80 dog-friendly UK beaches!

What happens if my dog eats sand?

Ingesting a little bit of sand is unlikely to harm your dog. However, if your dog spends a day at the beach playing fetch, digging holes, and running around in the sand, they are likely to ingest a lot of it accidentally. Ingesting large amounts of sand can lead to sand impaction. This is when the sand compacts and stays stuck inside your dog’s intestines, thus blocking food and water from passing through the gut, and causing painful stomach cramps. 

What are the symptoms of a blockage in a dog?

Symptoms of sand impaction in dogs include lethargy, pale gums, excessive panting, shaking/trembling, dehydration (check for dry nose and/or gums), loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea (sometimes with blood), and a hardened abdomen. In most cases, dogs recover fast with some help from the vet, but in serious cases, sand impaction can be fatal, particularly if left untreated. It is vital to seek a vet’s help as soon as your dog starts showing any symptoms. 

What will a vet do if my dog has ingested sand?

Your vet will examine your dog to assess how serious the situation is. In some cases, if your dog has already been sick and isn’t showing any other symptoms, your vet may just tell you to keep a watchful eye on them and won’t need to prescribe any particular treatment.

However, if your vet finds your dog to be very sick, they will probably start by giving them something to encourage vomiting in order to get the sand out of the gut. If your dog is severely dehydrated, your vet may put them on intravenous fluids, which can also help the sand to pass through the gut. 

In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove the compacted sand.

Is there a home remedy for sand impaction in dogs?

You should always take your dog to the vet if you start to notice symptoms of sand impaction. Only your vet will be able to tell you how serious your dog’s situation is. If they think your dog doesn’t need any special treatment, then all you need to do is keep a watchful eye on your pet and make sure their state of health doesn’t deteriorate.

Ensure your dog always has fresh water available. You can also encourage them to pass the sand through their gut by feeding them one or two teaspoons of pumpkin purée along with their kibble. 

Here are some other beach dangers for dogs to watch out for this summer!

How to stop a dog from eating sand

Unfortunately, most cases of sand ingestion are accidental, so it can be hard to prevent it. But here are a few things to watch out for: 

1. Avoid playing fetch on the beach

By picking up toys from the ground, your dog is inadvertently ingesting sand. In fact, most sand impaction cases are the result of a game of fetch on the beach. If you can, don’t bring toys to the beach. If you do, choose toys that have a flat and smooth surface, such as a Frisbee. These will pick up less sand than say, a tennis ball would.

2. Don’t let your dog dig holes

Digging in the sand is a super fun activity for your dog, but it’s actually very dangerous! If they have their nose close to the ground and are throwing sand up in the air at the same time, they’re likely ingesting it. If you see your dog trying to dig, try to stop them by distracting them with something else.

3. Don’t let your dog drink sea water

Sea water is dangerous for dogs (and humans) to ingest because of its high salinity. But sea water also contains lots of sand! Make sure you bring lots of fresh water to the beach so you can keep your dog hydrated and avoid them getting so thirsty they’ll try some sea water. Also avoid throwing toys into the water for your dog to fetch, as this will inevitably lead to sea water ingestion.

4. Don’t stay at the beach too long

The longer you stay at the beach, the more sand will get into your dog’s system. The beach is super fun for dogs and humans alike, so you shouldn’t avoid it, but just be reasonable when you do go. Stay, have some exercise, and then go home for a nice bath and nap.

5. Put an open-basket muzzle on your dog

If your dog is a compulsive eater, going on walks can be very dangerous for them! By putting an open-basket muzzle on your dog, you’re allowing them to breathe properly, but also protecting them from ingesting things that are dangerous to their health, including sand!

6. Ask your vet for advice

If your dog loves eating sand and other unusual things, it could be that they are suffering from some sort of nutritional deficiency. Speak to your vet about this to see whether you need to make changes to your dog’s diet. Also ensure you’re regularly giving your dog worming tablets

As long as you keep these helpful tips in mind, you’re sure to have a blast at the beach with your dog!

Frequently asked questions

What sand is safe for dogs?

How do you get sand out of a dog?

Can sand irritate dogs’ skin?