Beach Awareness for Dogs
By: Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna
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Beach season is finally here! Surf, sand, and sun, for people and dogs too. Many of us are familiar with beach safety for people, but do you know important safety for dogs at the beach? Take a quick look here:
Wet tail: When I lived in San Diego, I often took my dog Sam to the beach. He would play and splash is the cold Pacific water for hours, enjoying himself. He had so much fun until the end of the day, when suddenly he couldn’t move his tail. He was suffering from Wet Tail, also known as Limber Tail. This condition is one of long-tailed dogs, where they essentially sprain, or temporarily paralyze their tails. It often occurs after playing in very cold water (hence the name Wet Tail), or after hunting. This condition is self-limiting, meaning it will cure itself with time and rest. Some dogs benefit from an anti-inflammatory for a few days. Unfortunately, some dogs are predisposed to Wet Tail, and may get it multiple times. If you notice your dog suddenly can’t move his tail, or his tail is drooping unusually, you should speak with your vet to rule out a fracture, but he may be suffering Wet Tail.
Osmotic Diarrhea: Sam loved to run and romp in the water, and all that exercise made him thirsty. Despite bringing him lots of fresh water, he undoubtedly drank some ocean (salt) water as well. Salt water is a well-documented cathartic, often causing diarrhea. Too much salt water can be highly toxic, even causing brain swelling. But in Sam’s case, as well as lots of other dogs, he didn’t take in enough to be toxic, but enough to upset his tummy. The result is very watery diarrhea, with poor bowel control and some abdominal cramping. The best treatment is ample fresh water, as the diarrhea can be dehydrating. Fresh water will help dilute the salt concentrations. A food that is easy to digest is recommended for a few days as well. If in doubt, always speak with your veterinarian.
- Sand impaction: I am very grateful that Sam was such a big boy, or he would definitely have suffered from this condition. Sand impaction is where the dog ingests sand through the mouth, which may get lodged in his stomach, intestines, or colon. The sand can form an impaction (a blockage) preventing food from processing normally through the digestive system. Most dogs can pass a very small amount of sand, with normal fluid intake. But some dogs love to eat sand, and may take in large volumes. It may be a pica issue, where a dog eats non-food objects (read my blog on Pica here. Some dogs, like Sam, ingest sand as they eat their treats or chew on their ball at the beach. Small dogs are predisposed to sand impaction because their intestines and stomach are smaller, so a smaller volume of sand can block them. If your dog is vomiting, constipated, or straining to defecate, always speak with your veterinarian. An x-ray can help determine if an impaction is present. Some impactions need medicine, such as IV fluids, while others require surgery.
As you can see, health is important no matter where you are. Dogs love the summer as much as we do, but they are still susceptible to problems. I advise using your Voyce monitor to keep track of activity and wellness year round. If you travel to the beach, it is useful to use Voyce so your medical records can travel with you, in case of an emergency. Awareness is the key. Be alert to how your dog is feeling while at the beach, and give lots of fresh water and sun breaks. Illness can strike anywhere, but with awareness, you and your furry friend can enjoy a great beach vacation!
What other summer topics would you like to hear more about? Let me know via email!