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In our eyes, there’s no better activity to enjoy with your dog than spending time at the beach strolling along the sand, paddling in the ocean and taking in that crisp, sea air.
As much as we do love to be beside the seaside, there are a few things you should consider before you pack your deck chairs and pooches’ favourite ball. Whether it’s understanding the hazards to ensure your dogs safety, choosing the right location or even your environmental impact by reading our tips you can make sure you and your dog have the best time at the beach.
The first thing you’re going to need to do is choose a beach to visit. If you’re lucky like us at Skipper’s you might not live too far from the coast, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your research and stroll along any old stretch of sand.
Most local councils have rules and regulations in place about the areas of the beach dogs are and aren’t allowed on during certain times of the year. For example, on our very own Cleethorpes beach dogs aren’t allowed on the busiest stretch of beach between Good Friday and September 30th each year.
Some local authorities will even have rules about whether your dogs should be on a leash or not too, so be sure to check the local authority website about the beach you’re planning on visiting first and pay close attention to any signs along the beach itself.
As with anywhere you take your dog, it’s always best to be aware of your surroundings and understand the dangers that might be close, and the beach is no different. We’ve highlighted some of the hazards you could face so you can be prepared.
1. The Weather:
This is potentially one of the most problematic hazards but at the same time one of the easiest to prepare for. We all like to spend more time soaking up the glorious sunshine but be aware of the effect it could be having on your dog. Heat exhaustion is a very real threat at the seaside and can lead to potentially fatal consequences.
Remember your dog doesn’t have sweat glands the way we do to help regulate their body temperature; instead, they do this by panting which without taking the proper precautions may not be enough to keep them from overheating.
Fortunately spotting the symptoms of heat stroke need not be difficult. The RSPCA says the warning signs to look out for are:
If the dog has experienced any of these signs you should move them into a cool place immediately and call a vet. To provide emergency first aid you should:
Once the dog is cool and their breathing has started to settle you should take them to the nearest vet, urgently.
Some dogs are at more risk of heatstroke than others, like very old dogs or young dogs, dogs with thick coats or Brachycephalic breeds; dogs with short noses like Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers and Shi Tzus.
As with most things, prevention is the best cure when it comes to heat exhaustion. Consider perhaps taking your dog to the beach at cooler times of the day rather than during the full heat of the sun and be sure to take plenty of fresh drinking water with you. Salty sea water will not help hydrate your dog, can make your dog ill and will accelerate the effects of heat stroke, so make sure your dog avoids drinking it.
Another hazard to consider in relation to the weather is the tide table. Most dogs love to have a dip in the sea, it will help them keep cool too, but you should always pay particular attention to the tide, it can come in very quickly and if you’re walking quite a distance away from the shoreline you can quickly find yourself trapped. You can check the local tide tables via the BBC website here www.bbc.co.uk/weather/coast_and_sea/tide_tables/ for information about when the best times to visit may be. If the beach you visit has a high tidal range, it’s not a great idea to try and reach the water line if it’s a long way out during low tide.
If the water is rough and choppy, it’s always best to keep your dog from going into the sea. Whether your dog is a strong swimmer or barely a paddler it’s worth investing in a doggy life vest, especially if you take regular trips to the beach.
It’s not just the weather and the Sea itself that poses the risks at the Beach, there are other hazards to consider without getting wet!
Quicksand might be something you first associate with fiction, Scooby Doo cartoons and Laurence of Arabia, but it’s a very real problem all along the UK cost, as Paul Stott and Kyla Holmes found out when walking their Jack Russell cross Chihuahua Dave on a Northumberland beach in 2016 www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/see-northumberland-quicksand-cost-dog-11845748 ). They let Dave off for some off-lead training and saw him disappear beneath some wet sand. Fortunately, Paul managed to rescue the completely submerged dog before it was too late.
Keep an eye out for signs that might warn of possible quicksand. In the event you do get caught in any, dial 999 and ask for the coastguard and try to spread your weight over a larger surface area to prevent more sinking.
3. Carrion, Debris and Foreign Objects
There can be a lot of potentially harmful hazards on the shoreline for you and your dog to navigate, whether it’s washed in with the tide or has been left by other beach users, it always pays to be aware of what’s around you.
If you visit a beach that’s particularly favoured by fishermen keep an eye out for the line, hooks or lures or bait that may have been left behind. Your dog may be tempted to swallow the shiny fishing lure or bait which could get a hook embedded in their mouth, gullet or stomach and cause a nasty injury.
Beaches are a popular picnic and BBQ destination too, so there can be many temptations for your dog, try to be vigilant in case you stumble across any discarded food or rubbish that your dog shouldn’t eat. And if you’re planning on taking a picnic or BBQ yourselves, make sure take your rubbish and uneaten food away with you to dispose of properly too.
It’s not just discarded picnic goer’s food that can be tempting for dogs though. Washed up dead fish, crab, and birds that may harbour toxins or parasites and can cause illness or block intestinal passages. It’s quite common for dead jellyfish to wash up on British beaches too, which even though dead can still deliver a nasty which can cause anything from skin irritation to anaphylactic shock.
Seaweed can have fantastic health benefits properties in certain forms, but if dried up seaweed is ingested on the beach, it can swell and expand in the digestive tract and cause blockages too.
More and more common is the appearance of fatbergs washing up on UK shores. The waxy blobs are made from palm oil and contaminated with all kinds of pollutants like ship waste and diesel and pose very serious health issues to dogs if ingested. Several dogs died after palm oil blobs washed up on Cornwall beaches in 2014.
This section isn't about the impact the environment might have on your dog, but the impact you and your dog might have on the environment.
If you're staying at the beach for a while, for a picnic or BBQ perhaps, remember to take rubbish bags with you so you can take everything away with you to be disposed of properly.
This is equally important for poop! Make sure you take enough poo bags with you, it might not seem as important to some in such large open spaces, or because the tide will wash it away, but dog feces left on the beach can pose health risks to other dogs and their owners, as well as other wildlife.
In October 2018 the Marine Maritime Organisation launched the #binit4beaches campaign to raise awareness about littering and fouling at the beach.
Dog mess contains high levels of the two types of bacteria that are measured when testing bathing water quality and can determine whether the classification of a bathing water is excellent, good, sufficient or poor.
When walking your dog at the beach it's also important to consider wildlife in the area. Some areas are often protected, particularly for birds that nest on the ground in grassy areas. Keep an eye out for signs that notify you of this, but generally, it's a good idea to keep your dog away from those areas.
If you're lucky enough to visit a beach that attracts Seals you should keep your dog on a lead at all times. This is especially important when Seal pups are around, as their mothers are aggressively protective.
When it's time to go home and you've packed up all your belongings and disposed of your rubbish and poo bags (if there are bins, remember to take them home if not!) there are a couple more things you should do.
First of all, make sure to check your dog over for any cuts and scrapes from sharp shells or other foreign objects.
It's a good idea to give your dog a good bath and thoroughly rinse their coat when you get home too to get all of the sand, debris and salt water out of their fur and away from their skin. If left it can cause severe irritation to your dog. Make sure you clean it out of their ears and eyes carefully. It's also a good time to check them over for any parasites like ticks too.
With all this in mind, it might seem like a lot to consider, but by following these tips you can ensure the beach is a fantastic place to visit not only for you and your dog, but for other beachgoers and the local wildlife too.
Did we miss anything out? If you think something else should be covered get in touch and we'll add it to the blog.