Who doesn’t love a trip to the beach and the companionship of a good dog? Whether that stroll takes place at a lake, river, or ocean, part of the enjoyment is the familiar feel of bare feet pushing into cold, wet sand. Your canine companion may or may not notice the sand beneath her paws. Some dogs get so excited at the beach that they seem to bounce rather than walk.
The fresh sea air can put new life into any dog, and it seems as they could go on playing for days. The beach can be a great place to enjoy an afternoon with your dog, but it also present safety hazards. Pet owners must be aware of their dogs’ activities. While no one feeds their dog a plate of sand, Fido could swallow the gritty grime without even realizing it.
When a dog eats sand, it is usually consumed in small amounts. For example, licking a dirty paw could result in swallowing a bit of sand. Digging in the sand, especially with a dog’s nose in the ground, could also cause a bit of sand swallowing. However, the biggest risk comes from dogs retrieving objects in the water. Throw a rope toy or a tennis ball, and a vivacious retriever is in his glory. The enthusiastic pup will scoop up that toy with zest—often with a swallow of sandy water or a mouthful of solid sand.
You may not notice a problem at first, but dogs may feel the pain of sand ingestion later. Sand is heavy and as it compacts in the intestines, the whole intestinal tract can shut down. Food and water will not be able to pass to the stomach for digestion, and the dog will show signs of illness very quickly. With or without vomiting, the dog will feel nauseous. You will know your pup is uncomfortable when he or she circles and circles but can’t get comfortable to lie down.
After eating sand, you may also notice that your dog becomes lethargic and has a loss of appetite. Panting, sunken eyes, and dry nose and gums are signs your dog is dehydrated. You may also perform a simple test to see if your dog needs fluids. Simply pinch a bit of loose skin and gently lift it away from your dog’s body. Let go and note how quickly the skin returns to its normal position. The skin of a healthy dog will bounce back quickly, but a dog suffering from dehydration has a different response. The skin will seem to stick together and slowly return back to the normal position.
If you notice that your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, consult a veterinarian immediately. Your dog will need a few diagnostic tests to determine its state of health, such as x-rays and blood panels. Your dog will also be started on intravenous fluid therapy to improve hydration and to prepare for possible surgery.
If sand is discovered in the gut, the fluid therapy will help pass what is lodged in the intestine. The dog may also be given oils to help loosen the sand and help it pass. Synthetic sugar can help alleviate constipation, and in severe cases, the veterinarian can perform surgery to extract a portion of the sand. It may take a few weeks to pass all the sand, and the consumption of salt in the water may further complicate the situation. Your dog will be uncomfortable passing the sand, as the grittiness of the substance is unpleasant to expel.
Of course, a little knowledge is a good thing in this case. Dog owners should monitor their dogs at the beach—and keep them away from cat boxes!