Should You Take Your Companion Dog to the Beach?

After Hemopet’s articles on cyanobacteria and harmful algae, you might be thinking that we suggest avoiding beaches and waterways altogether with your companion dog. Not so – as many dogs have great fun and get wonderful exercise at the beach.

Similar to dog parks, many urban areas and towns across the country have designated dog friendly area (DFA) beaches. These are great places for dogs to romp and play more safely.

We simply want you to be aware of and avoid any potential and real dangers by eyeballing them, as well as monitoring your state and local department of natural resources for updates.

Even if you don’t have cyanobacteria blooms and harmful algae dangers in waterways around you, you still need to be responsible for your pet and vigilant of other possible dangers – even at dog beaches.


Pick It Up

If you take your companion dog to a beach or any waterway, please watch him and pick up his poop. Dogs can shed bacteria such as E. Coli and Salmonella spp. in their feces. While neither bacteria really pose any danger to other dogs at the beach, these bacteria can be harmful to humans.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is one of the most common bacterial pathogens in cases of outer ear infections. It is not only found in water, but also soil and decaying organic matter. Floppy-eared dogs can trap water and moisture in their ears to create the perfect breeding ground to cause a pseudomonas and other bacteria including yeast, other fungi, mites, and Staphylococcal ear infection. Combinations of these microbes often are present. Additionally, dogs that have an underlying condition like an autoimmune disease, other immune dysfunction and cancers will develop secondary infections of pseudomonas more quickly than dogs that do not. Plus, if an outer ear infection is not caught and treated early enough, the bacterium can penetrate and cause infections in the middle and inner ear. Unfortunately, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and the other ear infections can be resistant to many classes of antibiotics and antifungals making them difficult to manage.


Leptospirosis is often highlighted in the media as the “dog killing bacteria”. Yes; dogs can die of leptospirosis. However, leptospirosis is easily treatable if caught early. It is also a rare clinical disease in companion animals and can easily be misdiagnosed because the primary diagnostic tests – MAT and DNA-PCR – are fraught with errors. There is a vaccine available, but it only covers four of the seven clinically significant strains, is only 60-80% effective, and may be given incorrectly.


Giardia lambia

Giardia infection, which causes giardiasis, is another reason to pick up your companion pet’s feces at the beach to protect humans and other pets. The good news is that the shed Giardia lambia from infected dogs does not usually infect humans. Giardia causes diarrhea, dehydration and weight loss, especially in puppies. While these symptoms may sound extreme, this disease is actually self-limiting, unless the infected dog is malnourished and heavily parasitized, and treatment helps speed up recovery.


Cryptosporidium is another parasite that causes cryptosporidiosis. Dogs can pass it around if they defecate in bodies of water. Some of the symptoms are watery diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, dehydration and increased thirst. Dogs that are immunocompromised are at a greater risk of developing severe symptoms, but this disease is usually mild and clears up within a week or two. Treatment is available, but sometimes it is better to allow this disease to run its course.

Heterobilharzia americana

Predominantly found in the freshwater in the Gulf states, the flatworm, Heterobilharzia americana, causes schistosomiasis. This parasite penetrates the skin and eventually makes its way to the lungs and then liver. The symptoms are usually weight loss, diarrhea and fresh blood passing through feces. Treatment can be tricky and often requires strong antiparasitic drugs.


Pythium insidiosum

Also typically found in the Gulf states region, Pythium insidiosum causes pythiosis, also known as “swamp cancer”. It penetrates open wounds or will affect the gastrointestinal tract if dogs ingest contaminated water. With the skin form, dogs will present with itchy, non-healing lesions and possibly hair loss. The gastrointestinal signs are anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. Unfortunately, dogs do not appear ill until late in the disease, which makes it extremely difficult to treat.

Other Dangers

  • If your dog eats enough sand, it can cause a sand impaction in the gut and will require emergency veterinary treatment. Signs include vomiting and dehydration.
  • Salt poisoning if your dog laps up too much salt water.
  • Not all dogs can swim. It makes sense to have a life preserver for your companion dog if you take him out on a boat.
  • Fishing hooks can embed in a dog’s mouth and all along the gastrointestinal tract causing tears, as well as hook into the paws.
  • Hot sand can burn a dog’s paws as well. You can put booties on your dog or use a dog-safe salve to help protect the paws.
  • Dogs can get sunburns, too. So, always keep a dog-safe sunscreen with you. Most importantly, AVOID sunscreens with zinc oxide. Zinc oxide can damage a dog’s red blood cells, cause them to rupture then lead to vomiting and diarrhea, and anemia. Other chemicals to consider avoiding are para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), octinoxate, oxybenzone, triethanolamine, imidurea, methyl paraben, octisalate, DMDM hydantoin and benzophenone-3. Some of these ingredients are found in “doggy safe” sunscreens. You also can treat sunburns with aloe vera.


Do go to the beach with your companion dog and have fun. Please remember to watch out for dangers, and bathe him thoroughly after your time out and about.


“Fecal PCR Test for Canine Schistosomiasis.” Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University,

Heuer, Victoria. ”7 Scary Diseases Your Dog Can Get from Water.” PetMD, 30 June 2016,

Lundgren, Becky. “Pythiosis (Oomycosis, Lagenidiosis, Swamp Cancer, Bursatti, Leeches) in Dogs, Cats and Horses.” Veterinary Partner, VIN, 22 Nov. 2010,

Playforth, Laura. “Beach Dangers For Dogs: How To Avoid Dog Beach Hazards.” Vets Now, 25 Feb. 2019,

Pye, Charlie. “Pseudomonas otitis externa in dogs.” The Canadian veterinary journal = La revue veterinaire canadienne vol. 59,11 (2018): 1231-1234,


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