As soon as the cold weather breaks, summer activities like hiking, camping, and beach trips are top of mind. And of course if you have a furry best friend, bringing them along with you for all of your outdoor adventures is part of the fun. But if you’re a new pet parent or have never brought your pet to the beach before, there are a few things you should know about bringing your pet to the ocean, or any large body of water.
Aside from making sure your pet doesn’t stray too far away from you, there are a few safety tips you should be aware of before you pack up and head to the coast. To make things as clear as possible, we tapped Dr. Yui Shapard, BVM&S, MRCVS, and medical director at Pawp to school you on everything from doggie sunscreen to lurking creatures eager to latch onto your pet for the ride back home.
Taking your pet to the beach is a great bonding experience for both of you, and with these tips, you can make sure to share in the fun as safely as possible.
Even pets get overheated with too much sun exposure, so make sure to pack an umbrella so your pet can relax with you in the shade as much as possible. Before you head out, make sure to check the weather.
"Avoid taking them to the beach in extreme temperatures and humidity, especially if they are already a heat sensitive breed,” explains Dr. Shapard.
If you’re concerned, Dr. Shapard says the best time to take your pet outside is earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon near sunset.
“I strongly discourage Brachyocephalics (smoosh-faced dogs like French bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers and bulldogs), long-coated dogs, and elderly pets to be hanging out at the beach on a hot summer day," she says.
In general, Dr. Shapard doesn’t recommend toting your cat to the beach.
“They may become very anxious, and the moment they start to show open-mouth breathing is a sign that they are in severe distress,” she adds.
Unless you’re on a private beach, you may want to avoid taking your dog off-leash if you think they’re going to run a muck and disturb other beach-goers. Keeping your dog leashed and under the shade is a great solution.
“Make sure your pet (mainly dogs) does not ingest sea water if you take them into the ocean or let them off leash,” says Dr. Shapard. “This leads to gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea, and can cause an imbalance of electrolytes called hypernatremia (increase in sodium) in their system, making them quite sick.”
It’s also important to keep an eye out for any potentially harmful marine life lurking in the ocean.
“Be aware of this possibility and have a contingency plan in place in case they come across one,” says Dr. Shapard.
We already mentioned that you should avoid letting your pet drink salt water, but you should also prioritize having clean, fresh (sand-free!) water available for your pet as long as they’re at the beach.
Make sure to know your dog’s personality. If they get anxious when you’re away (playing in the ocean) and they’re leashed near the shade, this could exacerbate heat stress.
Wait, pet sunscreen is a thing? Yes! And you should be using it if your dog is going to spend time outside.
The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., so make sure to use SPF for your dog accordingly. There is sunscreen that’s made specifically for pets, but Dr. Shapard says certain human sunscreens can be safe and effective as well.
“As long as [sunscreens] do not have ingestion warnings on their package, as those may have ingredients toxic to pets, they are safe to use," says Dr. Shapard. “The ones that are safe to use are those that are fragrance-free, non-staining with SPF 15 or 30, and I recommend reef-safe sunscreen products if your dog likes to play in the ocean so we aren't contributing to marine life destruction,” she says.
Sunscreen is especially helpful for light coated, short haired dogs with minimal pigmentation, or those with bald spots or areas of shaved fur after recent surgery.
“All dogs, however, would benefit from some sunscreen on their muzzle and any other exposed skin with minimal or no fur,” Dr. Shapard explains.
Of course, your dog can pick up parasites wherever they go, so make sure they’re on a monthly preventative medication from their vet.
“There are fleas and ticks found on beaches, so you want to at the very least have an effective flea/tick preventative on board,” says Dr. Shapard. “Mosquitoes are also found in beaches as well, especially in a humid climate, so it's also important that your dog is on an effective heartworm preventative. You can also use a topical pet insect repellent as well for additional protection to keep your pet protected from bites other than fleas, ticks and mosquitoes," she adds.
While heading to the beach with your pup in tow sounds like a relaxing summer activity, it requires a lot of preparation if you want to do it safely. Have questions? The vet experts at Pawp are here to help 24/7.
Reviewed and fact-checked by
Yui Shapard, BVM&S, MRCVS and Medical Director at Pawp