Dog Beach Safety

In San Diego, we have the luxury of having multiple dog beaches, however, before we throw the dogs into the car and drive to the beach, consider these items of safety:

Bring water: Nothing is more fun for your dog than being out in the sun, and running along the beach. However, like humans, after all that exercise, your dog is going to need to replenish itself. Without fresh water a dog may drink the salt water. This may not be toxic, but it can make your dog dehydrated or sick.

Watch the hot sand! Hot sand can burn paws! Especially during summer afternoons, be very careful of hot sand and asphalt. If your dog is small enough, you can carry your dog across the dry sand, otherwise, consider bringing booties, or baby socks that can fit over the paws. During the summer, I tend to avoid the afternoon sun and try to hit the beach early in the morning. Another one of my personal rules of thumb is walk barefoot across the sand and asphalt. If you can’t take it, then your dogs shouldn’t either.

Be careful of riptides! As a veterinarian, I always cringe when I see someone throwing a ball way out into the sea when riptides are present. Worse is when the owner gets angry when their dog refuses to go out after the ball. Be aware of the ocean conditions (strong tides) and your dog’s energy level. If your dog is getting tired, throw the ball along the beach instead of out into the ocean.

Be aware of beach conditions. Unfortunately beach closures sometimes happen. When they do, honor them. If the water isn’t safe for you, it’s not safe for your dog either. Also, listen to the lifeguards and other beach authorities. They are looking out for your safety (as well as your dogs). Another tip is use the 3-7 day rule. Do not go to any local beaches for at least 3-7 days after a storm. Storms churn the water and wash sewage down into our oceans, so let all that nasty stuff leave before you go back to the beach.

It’s ok to be fearful. If it is your dog’s first trip to the beach, don’t force it into the water. You want the beach to be a fun, playful experience. Not one that fosters fear. I had a dog who use to be afraid of the water, but after following me with treats the first time, and seeing the other dogs playing in the waves, my girl now loves the beach. In fact, she is now the first to run head first into the waves. So be patient, and make it enjoyable.

Dry sand is hard on the joints This is a tip for all our older dogs…dry sand gives away easily, unfortunately, for old, arthritic joints, this makes it much harder to walk on. Sadly, I have seen more joint injuries at the beaches than bite wounds. So, when going across the dry sand, go slowly and carefully. Also watch your older dog’s activity. If they start getting tired, make sure they rest, and don’t let them over do it. By the way, if your dog should come up lame while at the beach, end your trip, and see your veterinarian.