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Sand, Sun and Safety: 9 Tips for Taking Your Pets to the Beach


Everyone loves a day at the beach, including your pets!

Everyone loves a day at the beach, including your pets!

Pack a tote bag and load up the car! The beach is calling! But before you and your pet head off to enjoy the sand and surf, there are things you can do to keep your four-legged friend safe from heatstroke and other summer dangers.

Hydration is the Name of the Game

Like us humans, animals can fall victim to dehydration in the summer months. If you’re headed to the beach, pack plenty of fresh water for your pets, and a bowl they can access regularly for refreshment.

When you’re at the beach, be sure to frequently monitor your dog’s activities. If she doesn’t have enough cool, clean water to consume, she may resort to drinking seawater, which can cause additional dehydration, an upset stomach or even salt toxicity.

heat-safety-weekKnow the Signs of Heatstroke

While we rely on sweat to help cool our bodies down, dogs pant to remove body heat. If your dog is panting hard or in a way that is out of character, find shelter immediately from an umbrella, beach tent or other structure, and make cool, clean water available. Take special care with short-faced dogs, like bulldogs or pugs, since they are more susceptible to heatstroke.

Keep Their Paws Cool

Hot sand, gravel, shells and other beach surfaces can seriously injure the paws of your animal. Make a beach towel available for your dog, and be sure to rinse and examine their paws before leaving.

Apply Sunscreen Liberally to Your Pets, As Well

Too much sun exposure is equally as bad for your cats and dogs, and can result in sunburns and an increased risk in skin cancer for every member of your family. Use a sunscreen with SPF 15 or 30 on dogs, especially on breeds with lighter coats. Use a non-toxic, hypoallergenic sunscreen specially formulated for pets.

Not All Dogs Can Do the Paddle

While some dogs are adept swimmers, others may struggle in the water. Even if your dog can swim, exhaustion can set in at any moment and present a dangerous situation. Keep careful watch of your pet, and never allow her to get too far beyond the shore. Never force a dog into the water if they seem uncomfortable or are unable to stay afloat on their own.

A canine life vest will help keep your dog safe in water or while on a boat, Make sure the vest is fitted properly, since loose-fitting vests can be a choking hazard, or may cause the dog to slip out in the water.

Watch for Algae and Red Tides

Red tides which appear in salt water, and blue-green algae which can be found in freshwater both present the possibility of irritating the skin of your pets. Your dog can also experience digestive problems, liver failure, and even death if these toxins are ingested. If you detect red tide or blue-green algae, keep your pet away from the water.

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Pack a Picnic—and Watch What They Eat

Always pack snacks and a meal for your dog — fun at the beach can work up an appetite. Monitor her activities closely to be sure she doesn’t eat seaweed, decaying fish or other refuse, which can cause an upset stomach.

Avoid the Dunes, Grasses and Marshes

Dogs love to explore, but be very careful before allowing your animals to scout out grassy areas of the beach that could be infested with ticks, snakes and other dangers. Always check your dog’s coat and skin for signs of bites and ticks after visiting the beach.

Observe Good Pet Ownership

Always keep your dog leashed while at the beach, and follow all local laws and ordinances. Be a responsible owner by picking up her waste and disposing of it properly.

Need a friend to take to the beach? Check out all of the Houston SPCA’s adoptable animals. Founded in 1924, the Houston SPCA provides the most comprehensive array of animal adoption, shelter, rescue, rehabilitation and other programs and services in the Gulf Coast area.

Houston SPCA Summer Heat Safety Week

Sources and Recommended Reading