by Gabrielle Feldman, The Drake Center
As the weather warms up, your pet is probably eager to head to the beach with you. Be sure to read these safety tips before diving in at the beach with your furry friends.
Never leave pets unattended
All open bodies of water, including pools, oceans, lakes, rivers, ponds and even hot tubs can pose a threat to your pet if left unsupervised.
At The Drake Center, our doctors see an average of one drowning or near-drowning case per year. Of course, even one preventable tragedy is too many. Remember that pets are like small children and need to be monitored at all times.
Teach pets to swim
Many people believe that dogs—and yes, even cats—are instinctual swimmers, but this is simply not true. Some breeds are just not built for water and therefore are not natural swimmers. Very young and very old pets are generally poor swimmers as well. The bottom line: Never assume that any pet can swim.
Drinking salt water is a no-no, as it can lead to vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration or even more severe symptoms (salt poisoning). Be sure to have plenty of fresh water on hand for your dog and offer it regularly.
Watch for signs of heat stroke
Pets can easily overheat on a hot day, even while swimming. Common symptoms of heat stroke include excessive or intense panting, obvious distress, weakness, a staggering or “drunken” gait, pale and/or dry gums, and/or collapse. If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Check the conditions
Make sure swimming conditions are safe before heading out to the beach with your dog. Watch for unusual currents, tides and water quality. If you are unsure, ask a lifeguard about any dangers and recommendations for the safest areas for your dog to swim. Just make sure you are visiting a dog-friendly beach first!
Watch your pet’s step
Shade and foot protection are a must when visiting the beach, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Hot sand, pavement and metal surfaces can easily burn your pet’s feet. In addition, be mindful of items that may injure paw pads, such as broken shells, glass or even discarded fish hooks. Keep in mind that these items—and more—may also be ingested.
Don’t get burned
Pets with light-colored, shaved or thin coats can get sunburned. Protect them with a specially formulated pet sunscreen, but be careful not to confuse it with your own—the human variety can be toxic!