dog and little girl at beach

Pet Swimming Safety

Pets and Water Safety

Q: “My dog, Grady James, loves coming to the beach with us every weekend. Sometimes he has diarrhea and acts sick afterward. I heard that the water can be bad for dogs. Is this something I should be concerned with?” Caitie – dog parent, NSB

A: We are incredibly lucky to live in an area that allows us to enjoy the outdoors throughout the year, and it is so nice to be able to share this experience with your dog!

Just like us, they can have a wonderful time enjoying beach and water activities, but there are some risks that can hopefully be avoided.

Playing in and ingesting salty water, such as at the beach or even the intracoastal areas, can lead to a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition called hypernatremia. As dogs swim and romp, it is easy for them to consume a surprisingly large amount of water. If the water is high in salinity, problems as mild as diarrhea to severe neurological problems, coma or even death can occur. To help prevent this from occurring, strictly limit the time your dog is in contact with salty water. 

Provide fresh water and allow your pet to drink from this very frequently. Access to shade and rest will help deter dogs from drinking as much of the salty water. Some dogs will automatically consume a lot every time they grab a toy or stick in the water, play in the waves or even try to clean and lick themselves later. Washing your pet off after will help prevent further ingestion of salt that has dried onto their coat.

Dangers at the Beach

If your dog is ever not acting well after enjoying this type of water, seek medical attention right away.

Playing in sandy areas including digging holes and picking up toys or food from the ground can lead to ingesting a great deal of sand. This can lead to sand impaction, a condition that can cause severe gastrointestinal pain and obstruction. Usually hospitalization is needed and sometimes even surgical removal of the impaction is required. Monitor your pup closely as they play to ensure they are not consuming sand. Limit their total time in the sandy environment as well to reduce the amount inadvertently swallowed. 

Another possible consumable danger are the fishing hooks and lines often found discarded in these areas. They are extra attractive to dogs due to the interesting smells and likely recent fishy tastes still on them. Hooks can easily embed in a curious snout or paw, or even worse, go down the hatch! Especially with fishing line attached, this is a dangerous scenario. Hooks can puncture the intestines, line can pull and cut through, and some metals can cause toxicities! If you think your dog ever eats something like this, have them checked out right away at your veterinarian. 

Even the strongest swimmers, human or canine, are susceptible to strong riptides. Always check the local forecast and avoid the ocean when riptides are predicted. Keeping a harness and leash on your pup can aid in controlling how deep they go and hopefully give you some ability to help keep them safe. 

While you cannot avoid every possible scenario, being aware of the common dangers can help you and your outdoor companion stay safe. Next month we will learn about puppy swimming lessons, pool and fresh water safety.

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