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Caring for your Dog on Holiday

Over the years we’ve noticed a pattern of illnesses and injuries which dogs holidaying in Cornwall can be susceptible to.
With this in mind, here’s a brief guide to avoiding some of the more common of these:

Vomiting and Diarrhoea

Drinking water from the sea, scavenging and a change of diet (different dog food/extra treats/human food titbits) can all wreak havoc with your dog’s digestion when you’re on holiday.

Seawater in particular tends to go right through dogs, so we advise you prevent your dog from drinking any at all if possible. Instead, encourage your dog to drink fresh water. Remember that streams and puddles may also be contaminated.

We also advise that you stick to your dog’s usual diet as far as possible when on holiday. If your dog has a tendency to scavenge and a sensitive digestion, it may be worth investing in a basket muzzle to prevent this, particularly when exploring a popular destination such as Padstow where there may be a lot of dropped food and it can be difficult to keep an eye on what your dog is up to when you’re walking along busy streets.

Sand Impaction

If dogs swallow too much sand whilst playing on the beach, this can cause a build-up of sand to occur in the stomach and intestines which may act as a blockage and/or irritant to the gastro-intestinal tract.

Vomiting and diarrhoea, often containing sand, can give us a clue to the cause of illness and sometimes it’s possible to feel sand crunching within the stomach when we examine the abdomen of an affected dog.

Treatment can include intravenous fluid therapy to prevent dehydration and liquid paraffin to ease the passage of sand through the intestines.

Prevention is always better than cure, so we recommend if you throw a ball for your dog on the beach, that you avoid the dry sand altogether and choose the wet, compacted sand for your game instead, since this is much less likely to stick to the ball.

Also bear in mind how long you play for, since it’s inevitable your dog will swallow some sand from the ball even if you do take this precaution.

Dog Bite Injuries

Some beaches and other popular dog-walking destinations can become a little busy at times during the holiday season.

Where there are a lot of dogs interacting with each other and excitement levels are running high, it’s possible that some dogs might become carried away and get into a scuffle. Occasionally this can result in a bite injury.

If your dog is unlucky enough to get bitten, we advise that you bring him/her in for an examination if the skin has been broken, because this can sometimes result in an infection/abscess if left untreated.


If your dog does a lot more exercise on holiday than he would in his day to day life at home, this increase could unveil underlying joint issues or perhaps cause a strain injury.

We advise that you try to build up the amount of exercise your dog is doing gradually, and restrict how much offlead play he/she has at first to allow adjustment.

Also bear in mind that older, arthritic dogs might seize up a bit following a long car journey.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a syndrome for which there are several possible viruses and bacterial strains responsible, including canine parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bronchiseptica.

Where there are a lot of dogs, potentially from all across the UK, interacting with each other and drinking from shared water sources (e.g. communal dog bowls in a pub garden), the risk of a dog contracting kennel cough is higher.

Symptoms range from sneezing, runny nose, runny eyes to the classic harsh dry cough, a high temperature and refusal of food.

We advise kennel cough vaccination, which isn’t 100% protective against all strains but gives your dog a much better chance of a mild form and a quick recovery if he/she is unlucky enough to pick it up.

Avoiding shared water bowls is sensible – taking a container with you that can be replenished when you stop for refreshments is a good alternative.


When we are fortunate enough to have hot weather in Cornwall, this can be a bit much for our canine companions, particularly those with a dark or thick coat, those with a short face such as pugs and bulldogs (brachycephalic breeds) and any with a heart or lung condition.

As always, the rule is to never leave your dog unattended in a car, even for a very short length of time. When on the beach it’s advisable to provide shade for your dog to lie in, encourage him/her to cool down in the sea and with regular drinks of fresh water.

Look out for warning signs of excessive panting and distress and if in doubt, it’s worth going inside so your dog can recover in a cool room.

Snake Bites

Adders will frequently bask in sand dunes (Perranporth, Crantock etc) and may even be found on footpaths.

Keeping your dog close by you, rather than allowing him/her to run off through the dunes exploring, can be prudent, particularly in warm, sunny weather.

If you do suspect that your dog may have been bitten by a snake (yelp of pain, sudden lameness, swelling of limb or face, sighting of a snake) then it is best to seek veterinary attention without delay.

In severe cases, it may be necessary to administer fluid therapy and anti-venom, but pain killers and antibiotics are usually required, even when there isn’t a huge amount of swelling.

Torn Claws

Running across rocks on the beach is an easy way for your dog to tear a claw. This is a minor but very painful injury when it exposes the quick.

Keeping your dog’s claws trimmed will reduce the risk of this happening.

Cliff Falls

We are fortunate to have miles and miles of beautiful cliff walks along our coastline. However, in places the cliffs are steep with a sharp drop down to the beach or rocks below and so can be treacherous
for the unwary.

Young and excitable dogs in particular may be at risk of a fall, particularly if following a scent through cliff-side undergrowth or chasing a bird for example, and thus being unaware of their surroundings.

To avoid a potentially tragic accident, we advise being aware of where the sheer cliff edges are and keeping your dog on a lead during these stretches, or anywhere you may be in doubt.

Potential injuries range from bruising through to fractured limbs, pneumothorax (burst lung) and of course fatality, depending on the height of a fall sustained.