During the summer months, many of us spend a lot of time at the beach. If we’re lucky, we can bring our dogs along and allow them a good romp in the water.
Swimming is an excellent form of exercise — as well as a way to beat the heat.
It’s easy to lose focus when we’re relaxing in the sun, but responsible humans have to stay on the alert at the beach with their dogs. There are several dangers to be aware of — including some that might surprise you.
If you’re anywhere near the ocean, you have predators to worry about — and ones that your dog won’t be used to seeing.
I live on Cape Cod, and we have to look out for the biggest, baddest predator of them all: great white sharks. Our waters are full of them this time of year, and both 2- and 4-legged swimmers can attract a shark’s interest.
Your dog isn’t safe even in the shallows. Great whites’ preferred food is seals, which are both land- and sea-based creatures, so a shark will swim to within a few feet of a beach to snare one.
Jellyfish are another animal to watch out for. Some have deadly stings and can be very difficult to spot in the water until they’re close by. Check local marine news to see if any jellyfish have been spotted in popular swimming spots.
You might be thinking, “No big deal — instead of the beach, we’ll go to the pond.” Well, watch out for blue-green algae then.
This hardy algae grows in fresh and brackish water ponds and lakes, and can be detected by its blue-green coloring as it drifts across the surface of the water. This algae is toxic and can cause severe illness or even death in your pets.
“Blue-green algae can produce two types of toxins, microcystins and anatoxins. The clinical signs of poisoning depend on which toxin is involved,” warns VCA Animal Hospital. “Microcytins can severely damage the liver causing organ failure. … With anatoxin exposure, death is quick, often within minutes to hours post exposure.”
The best way to avoid this algae is to remain alert when approaching any pond, lake or other form of standing water, particularly in the summer and autumn months.
If you see any algae, alert authorities and avoid swimming in or drinking the water.
3. Saltwater Poisoning
Recently, there was a sad news story out of Florida about a family dog who died after a day at the beach. The cause? Saltwater poisoning.
Dogs don’t typically ingest large amounts of seawater, but a thirsty dog may try to drink. If you bring your dog to the beach, always have plenty of fresh water on hand to offer whenever they need it.
Monitor your dog for the remainder of the day and the evening. If they seem off their food, lethargic or otherwise not well, call the vet. Ingesting too much saltwater can lead to seizures, brain damage and death.
4. Rip Currents
Many dog breeds are excellent swimmers and are, in fact, bred to be water dogs.
But make no mistake: In a rip current, they’ll be as helpless as a 10-pound pug. Rip currents are powerful currents of fast-moving water found along the coastlines.
As humans, we know that we can swim parallel — with the current — and eventually get ourselves back to shore. But your dog won’t understand that and can be quickly swept away. Rip currents and riptides tend to be more active during stormy weather, but they can happen at any time, so be super vigilant.
This dog probably doesn’t know that she’s playing with fire:
5. Foreign Objects
The beach is full of interesting things to sniff … and eat. Dead (or alive!) wildlife, like crabs and fish, and foreign objects, like lures and fishing hooks, can all tempt your dog.
When it comes to wildlife, some dead animals may have toxins present in their bodies. Foreign objects are obviously never a good thing for your dog to eat as they can cause injury. In addition, there may be broken glass and other human refuse around — so keep a sharp eye out.
Going to the beach is one of the best parts of summer, no question. And it can be done safely — all it takes is a little vigilance.