pet safety at the beach

5 Pet Hazards to Look Out for Around Water


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One reason we love summer so much is it welcomes hours of fun relaxing in the sun with our pet dogs or cats. Its R&R nature means being vigilant about pet safety at the beach, lake, river and creek may not be top of mind. However, there are a range of hazards around these waterways you need to be mindful of. Be it toxic algae, poisonous sea creatures, sand impaction in dogs, rip tides or something else – there are several risks to consider if you’re taking Fido or Felix to the water.

Your dog or cat is completely reliant on you for their safety and being a responsible pet parent means looking out for the dangers before they happen. Below, we go over some of the most common ones around waterways.

Before you explore further, familiarise yourself with NZ’s Lead the Way programme. Among other info, it provides seven steps to follow for keeping you, your pet and native wildlife safe when you’re enjoying the coast. You’ll also learn about the dangers the coastline poses to your dog (and vice versa).

pet safety at the beach

#1 Water safety at the beach, river or lake with pets

Does your canine or kitter like to swim? Swimming is a great way to cool pets down, but be mindful before you let your pet into the water.

Don’t let your dog or cat swim in heavy currents or huge waves – even if they’re a strong swimmer. A pet life jacket is always a good idea as an extra precaution regardless of how experienced a swimmer they are and how busy or rough the water is. In fact, it’s really a must-have, hence why it’s featured in our 2023 Guide to Top Dog Christmas Presents.

Never throw them into the water when you don’t know how deep or shallow it is or what might be at the bottom. Best not to do it at all because your pet might also react badly to the shock and swallow water by accident. Start in shallow water and let your pet wade in on their own.

In the ocean, always be on the lookout for rip tides, surfboards, swimmers, jet skis and boats. Watch your furry friend constantly in and around the water.

When it comes to lakes, make sure your pet is swimming in open and clear areas there too. Pets can quickly get entangled in reeds, underwater tree roots or water plants, which poses a risk of drowning. Also keep in mind that most all water bodies are clean or safe for pets. They can be contaminated with harmful bacteria or chemicals, which can cause illnesses if your pet drinks the water or swims in it.

A Labrador at the beach. Did you know that sand impaction in dogs is a beach hazard?

#2 Avoiding pet poisons at the beach and beyond

One in 10 of our dog insurance claims are related to accidental ingestion. This covers all kinds of claims, from dogs who ate something poisonous to dogs who had something lodged in their throat or windpipe, to dogs who’d eaten an indigestible item and needed to have it surgically removed.

Your pet dog or cat gobbling up something poisonous at the beach is something you need to be aware of. This includes sea urchins, sea slugs, jellyfish, sea lice, blue bottles and puffer fish.

Carry a small bottle of vinegar to douse over a sting or rash – this will neutralise the poison. With more serious incidents, like your pet ingesting a puffer fish, medical treatment should be sought immediately.

Beyond the beach pet safety

Some other bodies of water, like lakes, creeks and dams, can have toxic blue-green algae blooms, which are highly dangerous if ingested by pets. These hazards can lead to swelling, breathing difficulties, and can even be fatal.

Best to get your pet to a vet ASAP if they consume water with this algae in it. You don’t want them to end up like this dog did.

For a more comprehensive list of poisonous creatures in New Zealand click here. Also keep the Animal Poisons Helpline number on your phone in case of emergency: 0800 869 738. The service is free for all pet owners.

Once you’ve done that, check out which are the top dog friendly beaches for Kiwi canines.

A dog at the beach. Be mindful of sand impaction in dogs when out and about with your pup.

#3 Salt water and sand are pet safety beach hazards

Did you know that swallowing too much salt water or sand can be dangerous to your pet?

Pet safety at the beach, lake and beyond includes making sure they’re not gobbling up sand or taking in too much salty water. This usually happens from your pet (usually doggo) scooping up sand and water when they’re grabbing for toys or a ball in the water.

Too much sand – referred to as sand impaction in dogs – can cause blockages in their abdominal system, which will lead to pain and worse if there’s no urgent treatment to help pass the blockage. Signs and symptoms of sand impaction in dogs include vomiting, constipation, lethargy and dehydration.

Salt water will also dehydrate your pet dog or cat and lead to cramps, vomiting and nausea. Be aware too that pets who swim around in water can suffer from secondary drowning, just like us humans. This can occur up to three days after them being in a near-downing situation. Read more about this here.

Check out the story of this pup who suffered sand impaction in dogs. Luckily he was able to get help:

#4 Sun safety for your water-loving pet

The sun is what makes summer great, but it can also pose a danger to you and your pets. Here are some sun dangers to be mindful of with your pet at the beach, river, lake.. or anywhere outside:

Hot sand and pavement

The summer sun can really heat up the ground, including sand and pavement. Your furry friend’s paws are sensitive and can get burned if they come into contact with those super hot surfaces.

To avoid this, always walk with your pet during the cooler parts of the day, like in the morning or evening when the ground isn’t as hot. You can also test the temperature of the surface with the back of your hand – if it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your pet’s paws. If cooler can’t be achieved, perhaps give pet shoes a try if they allow it.


Can dogs get a sunburn? Yes, they certainly can, and so can cats. Just like humans, our furry friends can become sunburned, especially those with light-coloured fur or exposed skin areas like their ears and noses. The summer sun can be quite strong, and the harmful UV rays can damage their delicate skin.

To protect them, always provide easily accessible shade, and put a good pet-friendly sunscreen on them when you’re heading out. Frequent fresh water will help them stay cool too.


When it’s scorching outside, pets can easily become too hot, and if they can’t cool down it can lead to serious health issues. Heatstroke can cause symptoms like excessive panting, drooling, vomiting, and even collapse. In severe cases, it can be fatal.

Check out our comprehensive guide on heat stroke in pets for more on sun pet safety at the beach.

A kitten in the sun. Pet safety at the beach means not letting them get sun burned or overheated

#5 Fish hooks and litter

People often enjoy fishing during this season and sometimes they accidentally leave behind fish hooks, lines, and other litter. This can become a real danger to your pets.

For fishing related pet safety at the beach, you should:

  • Keep a close eye: Always supervise your pet when you’re near areas where litter or fishing activities may be present.
  • Stay on leash: If your pet is off-leash, make sure they have good recall and stay close to you to minimise their chances of getting into trouble.
  • Teach “leave it”: Train your pet with the “leave it” command, which can help prevent them from picking up or trying to eat dangerous items.
  • Clean up after yourself: If you’re enjoying a day out, be responsible and pick up your own litter and dispose of it properly. If you see discarded fishing gear, it’s a good idea to report it or safely remove it yourself if you can do so without risking injury.
Fish Bait with Metal Hook. Looking out for these is an important part of pet safety at the beach

Water-tight insurance for protection

Accidents at the beach can happen easily. After all, how many of us knew sand impaction in dogs is a pet safety hazard? In cases like these and so many other situations, a pet insurance plan can help to cover vet costs, which quickly mount up. That way, you can focus on getting your pet better, not on worrying about what the bill will be.

PD Insurance is an award-winning brand that allows you to seek veterinary treatment without worrying about the cost. Get a free quote today and sign up for a truly epic, stress-free summer holiday at the beach or lake. It’s all about offering your pet dog a safe, soft landing when they need it most.

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