Labradors love a trip to the beach. It’s a different environment for them and these naturally inquisitive creatures relish bounding around a flat, sandy beachfront discovering all sorts of new and exciting things, as well as meeting other dogs.
But with a new environment come new things for your Labrador to try. And typically, Labradors like to try new things with their mouth!
So are there any dangers you should be looking out for on your next trip to the beach? Is there anything at the beach that can harm your Labrador Retriever?
In this article, I’m going to list some of the main questions I’ve found people asking about their Labrador’s safety at the beach. It should help you know what to look out for on your next trip.
Is the beach safe for my Labrador
You shouldn’t be overly worried about taking your Labrador to the beach. In many ways, they are a perfect fit for it. The long expanse of sand really lets them stretch their legs and get some great exercise which is soft on their paws.
They also have the opportunity to experience different sights and smells which is going to really help stimulate them and keep their mind active.
They are also naturally strong swimmers. Labradors descend from a species of dog breed precisely for their swimming ability, the St. John’s dog. In the past (or even present in some places) Labradors were used to help fishermen retrieve fish or hunters collect ducks from the water.
So the beach is a great environment for a Labrador as the long expanse of sand lets them run and the water lets them swim, both perfectly natural and healthy activities for this breed.
Ultimately though, they are Labradors, so they do often enjoy eating things at the beach that they shouldn’t!
This is where one of the main dangers of the beach lies. If you don’t keep an eye on your Labrador you give them the opportunity to discover all kinds of interesting ‘foods’ which might not be great for their health.
We’ll look into a range of different beach objects and discuss whether they are bad for your Labrador.
But first, let’s discuss whether the beach is a safe environment for a Labrador puppy.
Is the beach safe for my Labrador puppy
Labrador puppies are even more inquisitive than adults.
They also don’t have the same body strength. That does mean that puppies are more at risk when visiting the beach.
You really need to keep an eye on your puppy at the beach to make sure they aren’t finding and eating things they find on the shore.
Labrador puppies are known for eating anything and everything whilst they are learning what is food and what isn’t. Since everything at the beach is going to be new to them you need to stick close to them and make sure they don’t chow down on everything they see.
They’re also at more risk when swimming. Labradors are natural swimmers but puppies shouldn’t be allowed to swim on their own and should only swim when the water is calm.
If you want to start training your Labrador to swim when they’re a puppy make sure you go with them in the water so you can lift them if they begin to struggle. And watch out for them swallowing any seawater by accident.
Basically, keep a constant eye on your puppy and protect them from eating anything whilst you’re at the beach and they will be ok. The second most important thing is to make sure they have plenty of water (not seawater!), as with the increased activity levels they may become dehydrated. Let’s look at that next.
Dehydration at the beach
Instead of the largest danger being what your Labrador can get at the beach the real danger is usually because of what they don’t get.
You need to be extra vigilant at the beach to ensure your Labrador is getting the fluids they need.
This is extra important for a Labrador puppy who needs to drink every couple of hours just on normal days.
I’ve written a whole article about how much water a Labrador needs which you can check out here.
Labradors are likely to be more active at the beach and so they’ll lose more water through panting.
If it’s a hot day that’s also going to have an impact on how quickly your Labrador becomes dehydrated.
On top of that, there are so many salty things to chew on or saltwater to drink that the salt can make your Labrador even more dehydrated.
It’s extra important to bring some fresh water for your Labrador to drink if you’re visiting the beach. They may be too excited at first to show any interest, but after a couple of hours, they will be craving for a nice fresh bowl of water.
Don’t let them drink seawater, it’s full of salt and will not quench their thirst. Let’s take a look at that next.
My Labrador swallowed seawater
It’s quite common for Labradors to swallow seawater, but this saltwater is not good for them.
Labrador’s might swallow seawater by accident, whilst they’re swimming and trying to catch a breath, or they might drink it on purpose.
If it’s on purpose you need to stop them from drinking it, if you can’t teach them on the day then keep them on the lead.
If you notice they swallowed some seawater by accident then you should stop them from any more swimming for that day at least.
Salt water poisoning in Labradors
The salt content of seawater is the main danger for Labradors. Salt soaks up surrounding water, it’s often used in cooking and brines for this quality but it can be dangerous for our Labradors.
The excess salt from ingested salt water draws water from the blood of the Labrador to their intestine. This can make them extremely dehydrated very quickly.
It’s common for small amounts of seawater to cause Diarrhea, this can be fast-acting and will probably begin the same day.
However, large enough quantities of saltwater can be very dangerous for your Labrador. The worst cases can be fatal.
This is due to saltwater poisoning, caused by an imbalance in fluid levels. As the salt level increases your Labrador’s cells will release water to try and balance out the sodium levels in the body, it’s a defensive reaction as toxic levels of sodium can lead to a 50% mortality in Labrador.
As a result, you Labrador can become seriously ill, symptoms of saltwater poisoning are weakness, diarrhea, muscle tremors, seizures and strange behavior such as confusion.
At the very least it’s important for you to give your Labrador plenty of fresh water if they display these symptoms (really they should have plenty of fresh water when visiting the beach anyway, but if they become ill then it’s extra important).
If you have concerns about the amount of saltwater your Labrador has drunk and they are displaying any of these symptoms then you should consult with your vet.
Can Labradors eat seaweed at the beech
Your Labrador should not be allowed to eat seaweed at the beach.
Although some forms of seaweed can have health benefits, the dried up, washed up kind you usually find at the beach can be harmful to your Labrador.
For a start it will be full of salt from the salty water of the sea, this will cause an imbalance in your Labradors fluid levels and can make them dehydrated, with a likely result of Diarrhea or vomiting.
A second reason is that this seaweed can actually expand once digested, causing blockages in your Labrador’s digestive system.
From my own experience, seaweed usually seems to be a particularly attractive proposition for Labradors on beaches. Likely due to the texture and salt content (animals do hunt out salt in the wild as it’s usually hard to come by), so it’s one which you need to be extra careful about monitoring.
A little bit of seaweed won’t do too much harm, an upset stomach for a day or so at most. But larger amounts could cause serious problems for your Labrador.
My Labrador ate a sea urchin
Although it is uncommon for Labradors to eat sea urchins, we all know how excited they get and I have heard cases of it from time to time.
Sea urchins are poisonous and dangerous and your Labrador should not eat them.
There is a double danger from the poison of the urchin and the hard spikes that protect it.
If your Labrador has eaten a sea urchin then you should take them to a vet immediately, even if there doesn’t seem to be any immediate effects.
Whilst the poison of most sea urchins is unlikely to be fatal to your Labrador (there are some rare sea urchins with very strong poisons), it may still make them temporarily ill and the hard spines could have caused unseen damage to their throat or digestive system.
My Labrador ate a sea sponge
Labradors may also eat a washed-up sea sponge.
These aren’t toxic to the Labrador but they may expand in their digestive system, causing a blockage. Therefore Labradors shouldn’t be allowed to eat them.
Unless they ate a lot of them, most adult Labradors should be able to pass a sea sponge.
You should monitor your Labrador for a day or so, checking their stool for evidence they have passed the sea sponge.
If you start to notice discomfort, constipation or straining when passing a stool without much actual ‘end product’ then the sponge may have caused a blockage and you should contact your vet.
My Labrador ate a seashell
Seashells are not toxic to Labradors but the sharp edges could cause an issue in their digestive tract.
Most Labrador will not eat sea shells but they may chew on them and crush them up.
Labrador puppies or young Labradors may be more likely to eat seashells as they tend to eat pretty much anything.
Whilst a sea shell is likely to pass through your Labradors system without harm, it may be worth consulting with your vet for their advice as sharp edges can cause damage.
If you notice any discomfort or abdominal pain in your Labrador (they may retract if you touch their tummy) then you should take them to the vet immediately.
My Labrador ate sea salt
Salt will often crystalize at the beach, especially if there are rock pools. Your Labrador may be inclined to lick this salt.
Labradors should be discouraged from eating sea salt at the beach.
They will get enough salt from a healthy balanced diet and this extra slat could cause a fluid imbalance and lead to excess amounts of sodium in their system.
My Labrador ate sand at the beach
As unappealing as it sounds, Labradors will often chow down on sand. This is dangerous and can cause digestive issues for your Labrador.
Whilst sand isn’t toxic, it can cause an issue called sand impaction, where excess sand sits in the Labrador’s digestive system causing a blockage.
If your Labrador has eaten sand you need to monitor them for the next day or so. Look for signs of unusual bowel movements, diarrhea, constipation or vomiting.
If you notice any of the symptoms above then it’s probably time to talk to your vet. Large amounts of sand can be difficult for a Labrador to pass and your vet should be able to give the best advice.
My Labrador is sick after visiting the beach
Beaches are great for Labradors, they’re good for the exercise of both the body and mind.
The dangers of the beach are far outweighed by the positives, but there are still a lot of things at the beach that can be harmful to your Labrador.
A lot of this is due to the environment being unfamiliar, once your Labrador learns that eating sand and seaweed makes them sick they probably won’t do it in the future.
Unfortunately, it can be quite hard to monitor your Labrador constantly at the beach and sooner or later they are likely to have a gulp of seawater or quickly eat some seaweed.
The best thing you can do is stop this behavior as soon as you see it and if they persist take them away from the beach.
If you think your Labrador might get sick after visiting the beach then monitor them for a day or so.
The first signs are likely to be digestive issues. Unusual bowel movements, diarrhea, constipation and vomiting are all typical signs they have eaten or drank something they shouldn’t have.
You may want to visit the vet at this point, but at the very least it’s important to try and keep them hydrated during this time so give them plenty of water.
If they won’t drink then you need to visit the vet.
If their symptoms persist, or you start to see signs of weakness or strange behavior like confusion then you need to visit your vet.