CARES IS ALWAYS OPEN! If you are having a pet emergency please call or visit. 215-750-2774 Directions

Pet Safety At The Beach This Labor Day Weekend


dog surfing

As you head to the beach with your furry friends this Labor Day Weekend,  the Center for Animal Referral and Emergency Services (CARES) in Langhorne warns of 3 unusual seasonal hazards for dogs (sand impactions, swimmer’s tail and burned paws) along with one very common and sometimes fatal problem: heat stroke.

Dr. Suzanne M. Dempsey, DVM, DACVECC of CARES, in Langhorne ( says many dog owners engage in regular summertime activities with their pets such as swimming, going to the beach and going on walks or playing fetch on pavement without realizing what can go horribly wrong. Here are three hazards Dr. Dempsey recommends we keep in mind during these final recreational days of summer.

It’s not going to be a “day at the beach” for your dog if he or she eats sand while swimming at a beach area or while playing fetch with that wet, sand encrusted tennis ball.   Sand impactions occur when sand enters the intestines, irritating the intestinal lining and creating a blockage. Early symptoms include refusing food and water and vomiting, lethargy, bloody and sandy diarrhea, dehydration and pain. Treatment may include IV fluid therapy, stomach pumping and medications in an effort to break up the sand and get it to pass. In some cases, surgery may be required.

Swimmer’s Tail, also known as limber tail, occurs when dogs swim in water that’s either too warm or too cold, or when dogs simply swim for too long and aren’t yet properly conditioned for that amount of activity. The condition presents with the telltale signs which may include a limp tail, no wagging, a tail that extends horizontally for 3-4 inches and then suddenly drops, hair stand up at the base of the tail, pain upon touch and swelling.  Veterinarians may order x-rays to rule out any fractures and test blood for increased levels of an enzyme that can damage muscles. Treatment may include warm packs at the base of the tail, anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce swelling and rest.

Your dog may have a tough callous on their paw pads but that doesn’t mean they can withstand any kind of surface. Dogs that are not used to hot concrete or sand, or dogs that run around and play on tennis courts or other hot pavement, can and do burn their paw pads. This can be extremely painful and debilitating for dogs. Symptoms include limping, refusing to walk, pads that have turned darker than usual or blister, and red, raw paw pads.  This type of injury requires immediate attention, as burned paw pads can become infected and are extremely painful. Pain medications and/or antibiotics may be used as treatment and your veterinarian may bandage the affected foot/feet or restrict your pet to indoors or only grassy areas. One good way to avoid any of these issues is to walk your dog early in the morning or late in the evening when peak temperatures have subsided and surfaces have cooled, or ensure your pet can walk on cooler surfaces (such as grass) if their feet get hot. Some people use Velcro doggie boots to protect the pads.

While the other 3 conditions are unusual summer conditions, of most concern in warmer months, are pets becoming overheated and developing life threatening heat stroke. Dogs with upper airway disease (collapsing trachea or laryngeal paralysis) and pets left in cars while owners tend to the business of their lives are at highest risk. People sweat to cool off while dogs pant to help regulate their temperature. If their airway is diseased, they may not be able to exchange heat by panting, and their temperature can rise to dangerous levels. Animals left in cars, like children left in cars, are at risk for overheating, as well. The temperature in a car climbs up to 40 degrees within a half hour of being turned off, and cracking the windows does not prevent this precipitous increase. It is not uncommon for pets who have been enclosed in a car on a day registering over 75 degrees to come in to CARES with a temperature over 109 degrees.

About The Center for Animal Referral & Emergency Services (CARES)
CARES is a full service, specialty referral, 24-hour emergency and critical care veterinary hospital with one clear goal: to provide a gold standard of care for your pet. The highly trained and compassionate team of veterinarians at CARES collaborate between specialties as well as with referring veterinarians to optimize the care of your pet. CARES ensures the latest, most advanced and best treatments available. Specialty and referral services include: Anesthesiology, The Cancer Center at CARES, Cardiology, Clinical Pathology, Critical Care, Diagnostic Imaging, Internal Medicine, Neurology, Ophthalmology and Surgery. Specialty cases are seen by referral from your primary care veterinarian. CARES also offers 24-hour emergency care. For more information, visit You can also find CARES on Facebook at

dog digging in sand