Safety Tips for Pets at the Beach
Just imagine wearing a thick, full-length wool coat when you arrive at the beach in July. You bound out of the car dragging your human at leash-end while you dash across the sand and leap into the salty water, splashing and frolicking. Then you step onto the shore, giving a little shake to loosen excess water. You lie down on the sand in the sun...and bake in a sandy crust. Soon, you're thirsty, drawn back to the water, but ...hey, it's salty. As you dry, you become stickier, saltier, thirstier, hotter, and scratchier!
This is a dog's life at the beach if his human ignores standard "beach" procedures to make his pet friend as comfortable as possible. We humans often remember to bring coolers, shades, umbrellas, loose clothing, ice, and so much other stuff to keep comfortable while we play at the beach. With a little fore-thought, pets can be equally as comfortable with beach living.
The same is true if the pooch is left in a fenced-in area in the back yard with only a hut for shade. Check to see what kind of pet area you have before you leave Fido in a dog house that doesn't provide as much shade as it does trap heat (just as with pets left in cars, trucks, and R/Vs). Coastal sunshine is pretty but powerful! Also, fire ants build colonies in all sorts of places, so checking where those ant holes are in the dog yard is important for your animal's health. Fire ant bites leave a nasty sting.
Dogs pant when they are having fun or when they are hot, stressed, or ill. Some just pant because breathing that way feels good – happy, healthy deep-chested dogs just pant because that's a comfortable thing to do. So, know the signs for your particular animal when he tells you he just needs water or needs you to find a veterinarian pronto.
Bringing your pet on vacation can be fun, rewarding, and restful for everyone, including the pet.
- Bring plenty of fresh water and shade for your pet while at the beach, dogs have heat strokes too.
- Never leave your pets in a vehicle especially in the heat
- Be aware of sudden waves and undercurrents when allowing your pet to play in the surf.
- During various times, you may find nesting birds, sea turtles, and other wildlife on the beach, please keep your pets close by and do not disturb them.
Here are some tips from your pet's point of view:
- Bring pet identification and verification. As a precaution to unforeseen circumstances, bring a photo of your pet and a copy of his current veterinary certificate verifying vaccinations against rabies and other problems. Bring a copy, too, of your vet's name and phone number, and put all of this in a plastic bag with Bozo's food and other gear. That way, if the need arises, you and your pet can meet all odds.
- Avoid Overheating. Dogs in and at the beach need protection against overheating. Guard against things they don't usually encounter—heat, abundant and intense sunshine, salt water, stiff breezes, sand, sharp shells. So, plan ahead and bring shade and fresh water. Watch your pet for signs of stress from heat, wind, salt, sand. Don't stay outdoors so long that your pet becomes uncomfortable.
- By the way, driving with your pet to the store for a quick purchase can bring on tragedy if you leave your pet in the vehicle, even if for a moment. A car's interior heats up so rapidly that an animal (only able to pant to cool himself) does not stand a chance. Even with open windows, a hot, humid day can be a killer.
- Exercise in the Cool Parts of the Day. Between 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun is at its most intense, don't force your pet to jog with you, even along the beach. It's HOT out there. Additionally, that scorched, sun-baked asphalt or cement can burn tender paws. Think before taking your canine buddy on some of the runs.
- Outdoor heat versus indoor cool. Bring your animal inside when temperatures and/or humidity are way high. The heat index (what the real temperature is versus what the temperature feels like) can be very high here in the summer.
- Being heavy and being hot don't mix. Overweight animals feel more stressed with heat and over-exercise, especially if their humans doesn't watch out for them. Don't push the little guy to do more than he can. Snub-nosed pets (bulldogs, Pekinese, Boston terriers, and others with short nasal passages) and pets with heart and/or lung difficulties can find difficulty with heat and humidity if not treated with care.
- Vaccinations. Have your pet's inoculations up to date. In the South, pets need protection against a number of challenges not usually found in the North, and one major one is heart worms, so check with your veterinarian before bringing your pet along. Make sure that Rover doesn't bring his fleas to the rental property, and plan ahead to have flea protection so that he doesn't take someone else's fleas back home with him. Some reliable flea protection options include Front Line and K-9 Advantix, but consult your veterinarian.
- Running loose. When you take your pet out of the property, go on leash, wherever you go. Most areas reinforce their leash laws for the safety of the animal, as well as for everyone else. Dog parks offer safe havens for dogs to run loose, and the Brunswick County area has several. On Oak Island, there is a dog run on at 46th Street and Dolphin. Click here for a list of area dog parks and play areas.
- Using the Leash. Leash laws protect your pet, so honor them. Even if Rover and Fido have never been on a leash in their lives, use this as an opportunity to teach them a new skill; dogs love learning new tricks and pleasing their masters. Leash laws protect the animal from being hit by a car, ingesting chemicals such as insecticide or engine coolant (lethal), and being picked up by the wrong people. Leashes used properly give as much exercise as roaming free. They are much more humane than exposing your precious pets to unknown elements, AND your pets will like the attention you give them in learning a new trick – use of the leash.
- Brushing and washing. Daily brushing will help you dog feel cooler, not only by removing shed skin cells and shedding hairs, but also by clearing him of salt spray. After a dip in the ocean, be sure to wash off the salt water. Whether you use a daily-use dog-solution or just give him a thorough rinse with fresh water, he'll thank you.
- Safe haven in storms. No matter whether your animal has you, his favorite toy, and his dog bowl, he is still quite aware that this isn't home. If a storm blows through, be sure to attend to him. Coastal storms have different smells and rapidly changing air pressure that humans don't often notice. Your pet might be frightened with a storm here that he would otherwise take in stride if at home. Some pets don't react calmly to storms at all, even in their home turf. So, protect you four-legged friend if a storm occurs. Don't leave him home alone. Comfort him if he appears concerned with pressure differences before the storm, then the thunder, lightening, noise, and wind during the storm.
- Be aware. Watch what your dog is doing when he is with you. Whether in the rental property or at the beach, this is probably a more foreign environment than he has experienced in his life. For example, watch for changing tide; he is shorter than you are, and tide can sneak up on those little legs. Watch out for other dogs; in a strange land, he can feel cornered and defensive. Watch what he tries to pick up or put his mouth or paws on; some sea life (jelly fish or crabs) can have harmful effects if ingested. Watch out for your pet when walking through shorebird nesting areas. Just a little consideration and everyone has a chance for a good time at the beach.
- Be respectful. The wildlife that you see here are either residents or are migrating through the area. Please don't allow your dog to harm sea bird nests or turtle nests by digging. On your dog's behalf, don't allow him to play with crabs, jelly fish, or wildlife that can harm him or might carry poison. The beach is safe and fun for everyone as long as everyone respects the others who are there, too.
So, there you have it! Some tips on having a safe and satisfying vacation with our best wishes to each one of you in your pet-loving family for having the best time ever on Oak Island! Go to Oak Island! Go, pets!
For more information, click on the following links:
Pet Information Home Page
Area Rules & Regulations Regarding Pets
Area Pet Shops & Services
Area Dog Parks
Dog Photo Contest