What To Know Before Taking Your Dog To The Beach

Don't forget the sunscreen and life vest 🏖

During the dog days of summer there is nothing quite like a carefree day at the beach — but if you want to share the sun, surf and sand with a furry pal, heading to the shore takes a little extra planning.

To make sure the trip is enjoyable for you and your pup, pet owners have quite a few things to consider before even packing their swim trunks, notes Dr. Rob Proietto, founder of Proietto Veterinary Services in New York City.

“One of the most common things we see is heatstroke in dogs who are not used to the warm temperatures and are spending multiple hours on the beach,” Proietto tells The Dodo. “This can be a deadly emergency so preparation is key.”

Knowing the signs of heatstroke in dogs, such as rapid panting, heavy drooling and vomiting, is vital when spending time outdoors.

Spiking temperatures aren’t the only thing to consider at the seashore. For maximum fun and comfort, here are a few handy safety tips for taking your dog to the beach:

Check that the beach is “dog friendly”

This may seem like a no-brainer, but every beach that allows dogs will likely have different rules and restrictions to consider. Do you have to keep your dog on a leash at all times? Can your pupper play in the water? It’s best to know before you go. Some beaches even have special dog-friendly hours, or might designate only a specific part of the beach for pet owners.

Conversely, more and more beaches are catering to dog lovers, so you’ll want to check the beach’s website to see what amenities it has to offer. You may even find shade and water stations, free poop pick-up baggies and puppy playgrounds at a strip of sand near you.

You can find dog-friendly beaches listed for some cities here

Hydration is key

“If you plan on bringing your dog with you, it is important to bring a bowl and plenty of cold water to be sure that they remain hydrated,” Proietto advises. A collapsible water dish is a travel-friendly option and popping the water bottles in the freezer before your trip will make sure the fresh water stays chilly.

If you’re playing fetch on the sand, make sure your pup doesn’t overexert himself — especially if he is not as active at home. Rising temperatures with intense play could be a recipe for heatstroke and exhaustion, so make sure you take plenty of hydration breaks.

Protect your pup’s skin

To keep your pup cool, it’s important to provide a way for your dog to escape the sun’s rays. “They will also need some shade to get out of the direct sun,” Proietto says. “If this is not possible then beach trips should be reserved to only short periods in the morning and evening before the temperatures are at their peak.”

Before applying the SPF to your own skin, make sure your pet is protected as well. “Pet-friendly sunscreen is important for pets, especially white or light-colored dogs or pets that have a sparse hair coat,” Proietto notes.

When applying the sunscreen, you will want to pay close attention to the vulnerable parts of your dog’s body, including the “ear tips, nose and abdomen (belly), as UV light can reflect off of surfaces they walk on,” Proietto explains. “Too much exposure without sunblock can cause burns and cancers much like in humans.”

Pet-friendly sunscreens can be found at any pet supply store and, in a pinch, dog owners can use baby sunscreen that does not contain zinc or para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), both of which can be toxic to dogs.

When you’re all done for the day, be sure to rinse your dog’s coat with fresh water, and scrub off the sea salt, sunscreen and any other beach minerals or critters your pup picked up on the trip.

Not all dogs are “water dogs”

Not all dogs are comfortable in the water (looking at you, bulldogs!), so by no means should owners throw their pup in the surf to see if they can doggy paddle. “If you’re going to allow your dog to go in the water, it is important that they know how to swim,” Proietto explains. “Just like with small children, they should have floating life vests if you are unsure how they will respond.”

Techniques for how to teach your dog to swim can help the pup get accustomed to floating, but they are best practiced in shallow, calm areas — so it’s probably best to save the swimming lesson for another day.

If your dog does love to splash around, be sure to keep him out of rough waters and strong tides. Avoid the places where people are surfing or boogie boarding, as it could spook your pup. When in the water with your pet, watch out for dangers below the surface, too. Coral, seaweed and rocks, as well as the critters lurking in the water, such as jellyfish and sea lice, could lead to injury and discomfort.

Of course, accidents do happen, and if your pet gets into a tousle with a jellyfish, a splash of vinegar can help minimize damage and ease the pain, according to recent research. Jellyfish stings may even warrant a trip to the emergency vet for further treatment, warns Vetary, if the dog has an allergic reaction to it.

Sand is not for eating

Pet owners should be sure to keep an eye on their dog while hanging out seaside to make sure they’re not eating something they shouldn’t. “One of the other things we see is sand impaction from ingesting sand,” Proietto says. “They can get a blockage in their intestines if there is a large amount consumed.”

Bring dog-friendly snacks and treats so your pup isn’t tempted to look elsewhere for a meal. Drinking salty seawater is not good for your pet either, and can lead to vomiting, dehydration and diarrhea. Make sure your dog takes frequent breaks from exercising to drink fresh water, and monitor him while he swims.

Follow these tips to enjoy a relaxing beach day with your best furry friend.