It’s summer, and summer in Australia means going to the beach and enjoying the water and sun. Here is a list of some top beach dangers for dogs. More than 85% of Australians live within 50 kilometres of the coast, and we love it. Soaking up the sun, building sandcastles, surfing the waves and, in many cases, hanging out with our dogs. But before planning a trip to the beach with your pup it is important to understand what dangers lay ahead.

Top Beach Dangers for Dogs

Heatstroke

Hot sun, hot sand, little shade, a fur coat, and an excited dog is a recipe for heat stroke. Dogs don’t sweat – at least not for the purpose of cooling down like we humans do – and can overheat very quickly. Nor can they tell us when they’re hot. Heat stroke can be serious and if not treated quickly and intensively which can lead to organ failure and may be life threatening.

To help your pup avoid heat stroke don’t visit the beach during the hottest part of the day. Make sure you provide them with enough shade, plenty of cool drinking water and limit excessive exercise.

If your dog is showing any of the following symptoms, they may be suffering from heat stroke, and you should seek veterinary attention immediately.

  • Excessive panting
  • Red (rather than pink) gums
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy (after or during a day at the beach)

Sunburn

Just like us, dogs can get sunburnt, and the most likely places for them to get burnt is their nose, ears, and belly. Dogs with thin coats or short white fur are also more likely at risk from the suns UV rays.

To prevent your pooch from getting sunburnt apply a good quality sunscreen that is safe for animals (not all sunscreens are suitable for pets, especially those with zinc oxide) to any exposed pink skin and provide them with a shaded area to cool off under. You can also consider UV- and UPF-protective clothing if your pooch will tolerate it. These are becoming very popular for dogs and can be a safe and practical way to protect high-risk dogs when outdoors.

dog nose sunburn
Severe sunburn injury on a dog’s nose.

The first and most obvious sign of sunburn on a dog is redness directly on a dog’s skin. Other signs of dog sunburn include:

 

  • Dry, cracked, or curled edges of a dog’s ears
  • Hair loss
  • Sores/scabbing
  • Skin ulcers
  • Skin infections
  • Skin cancer (eg squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma) which can present itself as abnormal tumours

If your dog displays any of these symptoms and you’re not confident it is sunburn related, seek veterinary attention as there are other more serious diseases which can cause these signs.

Salt Water

When dogs are hot and thirsty, they can be inclined to drink almost anything, and this includes sea water. Drinking a large amount of salt water can cause your pup to become more dehydrated (when a dog ingests excessive amounts of salt, their body will try and correct the imbalance) and this can lead to salt toxicity. This occurs when there is too much sodium in the blood and is also known as hypernatremia.

The common symptoms of hypernatremia include:

  • Excessive urination
  • Extreme thirst
  • Confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Odd behaviour
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Death (in extreme cases)

To avoid your dog from ingesting too much salt water ensure you take a break away from the ocean after every 15 minutes of play and offer fresh water throughout this time.

Sand ingestion

Believe it or not, eating, and swallowing sand can become easy for dogs to do after a day of digging, rolling around and chewing on sandy, wet toys. This unfortunately can cause stomach problems for your pup if too much sand has been ingested, as the sand can compact in their stomach and cause a blockage.

We recommend taking toys that are suitable for the beach and discouraging your pet from eating or chewing the sand whilst they play.

dog intestines sand ingestion xray
Xray of a dog with sand impaction (arrows)

Common symptoms of sand impaction can include

  • Vomiting
  • Seeming constipated
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

Signs can develop anywhere from just a few hours after exposure to a few days later. If you think your dog may be showing any of these signs, then please seek veterinary attention.

Hot sand

As a rule of thumb, if the sand is too hot for your feet, then it is too hot for dogs’ paws. Hot sand can cause your pets paws to burn and become very painful. Consider carrying your dog on the soft sand or purchasing dog booties or socks to put on to protect them. We encourage you to play with them on the wet sand and avoid the hot sand especially during the hottest time of the day.

Fishhooks

We already know that dogs love to sniff out all the wonderful new scents of a new location! Unfortunately, due to the strong smell of fish and fish bait, fishhook injuries are not an uncommon beach danger for dogs with fishhooks commonly getting stuck in their mouth, food pipe (oesophagus), stomach or embedded in skin.

If you find that the hook and barb is embedded in an area of the body, immediately cover it to prevent further damage or your pet from chewing, licking, or swallowing it. Even if you were able to successfully remove the hook, we would still recommend taking your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

To prevent this injury from occurring always watch your dog closely when roaming the beach and remove any items that are not his toys from his mouth and discard.

dog fish hook nose
This chocolate Labrador was unfortunately got a bit too close to this fishing lure!
dog fish hook stomach gut x-ray
This is an xray of a fishing hook (circled) lodged in a dog’s oesophagus. Fishing hooks may require endoscopic or surgical removal if swallowed.

 

Jellyfish

While exploring the beach you may come across some washed up sea life. Some will of course be non-threating and others a bit more dangerous. Although the fur on most dogs offers a nice layer of protection, they can be exposed to stings on lightly furred areas such as the snout, face, paw pads, and abdomen. The stingers on the jellyfish can continue reacting for weeks after the jellyfish itself dies (in other words, can still sting even when dead). As always, you must keep a close eye on your dog to prevent him from rolling in or eating anything that could cause him harm.

dog jellyfish beach

If you recognise any of the following symptoms after your dog has had contact with a jellyfish, you should take your pet directly to the veterinary clinic.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of coordination
  • Muscle spasms
  • Several stings
  • Swollen oral area
  • Swollen tongue
  • Vomiting

Pufferfish

Although Pufferfish toxicity is one of the rarer dangers seen occur from a trip to the beach, this is also one of the more serious ones. Pufferfish contain a potent neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin and when eaten affects the nerves in animals (and humans) which can lead to paralysis. As your dog may not be seen eating the fish at the time, it is important to be know the signs of toxicity any time your pet has visited the beach.

Pufferfish washed up beach

Dogs will often appear unwell after ingestion and begin constantly licking their lips and panting. Other symptoms may then start to appear.

  • Nausea (drooling)
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness (usually starting in the legs and continuing towards the head)
  • Inability to control
  • Breathing issues

Treatment for this poisoning is possible, but success is more likely in pets receiving prompt and aggressive treatment by their veterinarian.

Dog Fights

One of the less talked about dangers but also one of the most common seen in vet clinics after a trip to the beach is dogs’ fight wounds. This can occur in the blink of an eye and before you know it you have a severely injured dog or dogs and an expensive veterinary bill (always happens on a weekend!).

Being a dog in an exciting new environment can sometimes cause them to become nervous. If your dog is excited enough to go up to another dog that feels threated this can lead to unprovoked attack.

dogs fighting on beach

Although your dog is well socialised, friendly, submissive towards other dogs and ‘would never bite’ this cannot guarantee their safety or the safety of other dogs. Having your dog on a lead or playing at an area of the beach that is a bit more quiet and less crowded will help ensure your day at the beach remains a fun and enjoyable day!

If your pet does become ill has injured themselves after a day at the beach, please contact your veterinarian immediately.