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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Beach fun in the summertime... is it safe?

Ah, just picture it, the fun of throwing a stick into the water’s edge or running through the shallow wave breaks with your companion by your side. Yes I mean your dog, not your significant other, although I suppose it would be fun to give your significant other a command and have them obey right away! Or for some people, tossing a ball so far out into the ocean and giving the fetch command, then never seeing their significant other again may also seem pleasing! Oh wait, they call that murder! Never mind.

Are you one of those people who love to take your pooch to the beach, pond, or lake with you?

Since family dogs are now being seen as  actual family members and not lawn ornaments, many people take their dogs on vacation with them. But what are the hazards that the ocean, a lake, or pond can carry for your dog?

I read a sad story that happened back in 2003 about a family that took their dog, a Saint Bernard, to the beach and all had a wonderful time. On the drive home however, the dog came down with a bout of vomiting, began panting heavily in the back seat, became non responsive, and subsequently died before they got her to the dog hospital.

So, what happened?

There are theories or causes what it could have been, heat stroke being one of them, but the veterinary report stated that the dog drank too much salt water and with the extra sodium in her body, it stopped the blood from getting to her heart.

I’m not sure people realize how much damage a dog can experience when swallowing too much salt water. Even the ball you are tossing into the ocean absorbs the salt water and as the dog retrieves it, salt water is running down your dog’s throat and getting into its system that way. Salt water can severely reduce the electrolytes in the dog’s body causing vomiting, diarrhea, and severe dehydration.

Dr. Fiona Fisher suggest that, “you do not allow your dog to drink salt water and if the dog is doing so by chasing sticks or balls then try to limit the time in the water.”
Illness can be avoided if you make sure you are constantly giving the dog fresh water to drink and ensuring that as little salt water as possible is getting into the dog’s system. Fresh water keeps the dog hydrated and you may want to add a little children’s Pedialyte in with the water to keep the electrolytes stable. If you suspect that your dog has ingested too much saltwater seek veterinary help immediately. Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and being non responsive are all symptoms that speak volumes in your decision to seek veterinary help."

Other hazards you can find at the beach are: sand in the eyes, hot sand burning the paw pads, ingesting of sand, heat stroke, stings from jellyfish, eating of shell fish, drowning, and sunburn. All have the potential to really harm your dog.

Have a safe beach experience:

1) Make sure there is a shady spot for your dog to retreat too

2) Do not over exert the dog and provide plenty of fresh water

3) Keep a saline eye wash with you to rinse the eyes if necessary as well as a bottle of water to rinse wounds.

4) Always have Benadryl with you for allergic reactions. (be sure it is Benadryl allergy and not the allergy/sinus)

5) Use booties/socks on the paws if the sand is too hot

6) Invest in a water vest for your dog should the dog tire when swimming

So, with that being said the next question would be, are fresh water ponds and lakes safe?

Believe it or not there are organisms that can be found there as well that can give your dog a run for the money. Protozoa such as Coccidia or Giardia are spread through another animal’s feces or through water sources such as ponds or puddles, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and in some cases mild anemia. Giardia can also be transmitted to humans, so if Fido is sick after a trip to a lake, keep him away from young children that do not yet have self help cleaning skills.

Pigeon poop is another problem for both dogs and humans and the spores only need be inhaled to cause a problem, so if you are in an area such as NY where pigeons are plentiful and the public feeds them, watch for droppings and keep your dog away from them. From this you will see symptoms more of the neurological nature such as facial paralysis, incoordination, eye problems, and seizures.

Hmmm, throwing that ball far into the ocean for your significant other is looking better and better isn’t it? At least they can tell you what hurts, if they ever come back!

‘Till next time, have fun but stay safe !

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