Taking a much needed vacation to the beach is a great way for you to be able to unwind and your dog to also take in the sun and the surf. Typically this time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life is very rewarding and a time for owners and their dogs to just hang out and play. Unfortunately there are just as many if not more possible sources of injury for your pets at the beach than there are at your local neighborhood park or off-leash area.
In most situations people plan to pack a lot of things to take to the beach. They will typically take their own beach towels, perhaps a lounge chair, some water and of course a leash and collar, but very few owners think to bring a specific first aid kit for their dog. A small and easy to pack first aid kit that contains:
Antibacterial cream, spray or lotion
Antiseptic for wound cleaning
Hydrogen peroxide for flushing out wounds and
Gauze bandages for wrapping
Vet wrap bandages for large breeds
Pepto Bismol tablets
Dog first aid kits can be purchased at most vet offices, pet stores and feed and tack stores. In addition it is simple to make up your own kit that can be carried in a zip lock bag in your beach tote or even placed inside your own first aid kit for the family.
Without a dog first aid kit you can still improvise using whatever materials you have handy, but with a bit of preparation you can easily make sure that your dog gets the first aid treatment that will minimize the risk of infection or worse injury. It is also important to always have an emergency vet clinic number that is in the general area that you are vacationing or visiting. The internet is a simple and easy way to get a list of one or two vet clinics, ideally with 24 hour contact, which are close to where you will be.
Cuts and Wounds
Pieces of broken glass, shards of hard plastic, sharp rocks and even the edges of seashells can all be potential risks to your dog. Cuts occurring on the pads of the feet are relatively common at the beach, especially if your dog is running along the edge of the water where seashells and sharp rocks may be present. Cuts to the pads of the feet or between the pads will often bleed profusely, which actually helps to flush debris, sand and small particles out of the wound itself. It is important to have a way to bandage the foot or immobilize the dog until the wound stops bleeding. Covering the foot or the pad with a sterile pad followed by a gauze wrap or vet wrap is essential to prevent sand and other debris from getting back into the wound.
Once you get home be sure to examine the wound and flush out any material that may be inside of the cut. Spray with antibacterial spray and contact your vet if you have any concerns or if the wound is still seeping or begins to appear inflamed or infected.
Wounds and cuts to other parts of the body should be treated in the same fashion. Always rinse out the wound or cut with water or diluted antibacterial solution. Stop bleeding by applying gentle pressure and immobilizing the dog until the bleeding has stopped. Cuts that are jagged or where skin has been removed or cuts that are significant in size should be examined by a vet as soon as possible.
Often dogs at the beach will play with old pieces of drift wood, shells, bones or other objects. These objects can shatter or splinter, lodging small or large pieces in the mouth and throat.
A dog that is choking or has something lodged in their teeth, mouth or throat will paw at their mouth, appear highly anxious, drool and possibly make vomiting sounds and movements. First check the upper and lower teeth to make sure that there are no objects trapped across the roof of the mouth or in the gums or teeth. Remove any objects with your fingers or with the tweezers, pulling to the front and down or up depending on the location of the object in the upper or lower jaw. For objects stuck in the throat attempt to pull them out with your fingers or the tweezers only if you can see the object clearly. If you cannot, don't pull on the object or you may further tear the throat tissue, rather get the dog to the emergency clinic as quickly as possible.
Debris In The Eye
Dogs that are pawing at their eyes or rubbing their heads along the ground may have something already in their eye. This can be sand or some other small object. Hold the dog's head still and open the eyelids very carefully. Using a small section of sterile gauze gently remove larger debris and rinse with eyewash.
If the object is large or appears to penetrate the surface of the eye, bandage the eye so it stays closed, immobilize the dog and get to the vets immediately.
Stings and Bites
Insects of all types are located along coastal areas and at lakes, so it is not uncommon for a dog to be bit by mosquitoes, wasps or other insects. If the dog is scratching a particular area rinse with an antibacterial spray or hydrogen peroxide and dab on a bit of antibacterial cream. You may also want to bring a small amount of antihistamine cream or spray if your dog has had previous reactions to bug or insect bites.
Planning ahead for your trip to the beach with your dog means that you will have all the supplies that you need to attend to the most common first aid problems that can arise. The great thing about first aid kits is that they don't need to be packed every time and they can stay with your holiday gear from year to year.