By Rhonda Baillargeon, LVT
Ah, summer. What a great time to hit the beach with your water-loving dog! It’s also a great time to remember there are some dangers to watch out for while soaking up the rays at your favorite beach.
Water intoxication is caused by drinking too much water, diluting the sodium in the body. This lack of salt results in lethargy, nausea, bloating, vomiting and diarrhea. Severe cases can lead to seizures, coma and even death. The salt water of the ocean also causes problems by causing increased levels of sodium in the body. This draws water from the blood in the intestines causing diarrhea, which can sometimes can be bloody or mucousy and may require veterinary attention. Take a break every 15 minutes with “land” activity and allow your pet to drink some fresh water.
Protozoa, bacteria and algae all cause problems for our pets. Bodies of fresh water host protozoa like giardia, coccidia, and cryptosporidium, which cause intestinal distress. Bacteria such as leptospirosis and campylobacter are deposited in fresh water by wild animals that urinate and defecate in the water. These organisms cause illnesses, which require veterinary care. Warm weather promotes the growth of blue-green algae in bodies of standing water. This algae smells musty, and that can be very attractive to dogs. When dogs drink it, the algae causes skin rashes for swimmers and produces toxins possibly affecting the kidneys, liver and intestines. Wash your pets off thoroughly when they have been swimming in brackish water and prevent them from consuming it whenever possible.
Jellyfish and intestinal worms can be present in the sand at your favorite beach. Jellyfish tentacles can cause a severe allergic reaction when touched or bitten. Immediately seek veterinary care if your dog comes in contact with jellyfish. Intestinal worms such as hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms can be present in the sand due to other pets eliminating there. These parasites can cause diarrhea and vomiting in high numbers and can also cause disease in two-legged family members. Remember that a dog’s tongue is his toilet paper and he can pass these parasites on to you with his loving kisses.
In addition to the dangers water can pose, sunburn can be a problem as well. If your dog has a light-colored or very thin hair coat, consider a pet-friendly sunscreen. Select a product that is non-staining, fragrance-free, and contains UVA and UVB barriers making it SPF15 to SPF 30. Make sure that the product you use does not have an ingestion warning. Products with ingestion warnings are toxic if licked by a dog or a cat. Apply the product liberally and re-apply regularly.
In spite of these warnings, have a great time frolicking on the beach!
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