Keeping Your Dog Safe on Holiday in Cornwall
Cornwall is a great place for dogs and owners alike, but if you’re coming here on holiday this summer there are a few things you need to keep in mind. If you’re one of the many bringing your pup to the south-west then it’s important you’re aware of the risks you may not have at home (even if you do live elsewhere in the UK) so that your holiday doesn’t turn into a disaster. I know some of this might seem like common sense, but these are all things that I see and hear of people getting caught out by regularly so it’s worth reminding yourself!
If you’re visiting one of the many dog-friendly beaches in the county then please keep a keen eye on what the water is doing. Strong currents, rough waves, and rising tides can all quickly become a problem for your furry friend. The sea is a completely different ball game to rivers and lakes that they might be used to playing in at home. If your dog is not a strong swimmer or used to swimming at all then please keep them away from the sea – it is not the right place to learn! They can still have plenty of fun on the beach without swimming. Even the strongest swimmer can still get swept under by an unexpected wave.
The Coast Path
Many visitors don’t realise quite how steep the cliffs are, or how close to the edge the cliff path often takes you. It is not unusual to see people unfamiliar with the area letting their dogs run off lead, which could easily result in a dog falling. You’re also likely to come across many other people on the coast path, some of which may not like dogs. There have been occurrences of dogs running up to someone with a phobia who has automatically moved out the way and ended up stepping over the edge with fatal consequences. Cliff edges are often home to rabbits and other wildlife so if you have a dog that’s inclined to chase things then you should definitely be keeping them on the lead.
Cornwall’s history means that mine shafts are common and it is not unusual for new ones to open up. Recently a friend’s dog fell into one just a few feet away from the path and whilst they were unharmed, others may not have been so lucky. Whilst some may only be a few feet deep, in 2016 one opened up in a garden that was a crazy 300ft deep. Some beaches still have adits, a horizontal entrance to a mine, viewable at certain tides, and back in 2010 an 11-year-old girl sadly died after falling into a 30ft mine shaft filled with water whilst rock pooling.
Cornwall is pretty windy which can often fool us into thinking it’s cooler than it actually is. Before taking your dog out in the sun make sure it’s not too warm for them. During a heat wave always avoid the middle part of the day. Touch the ground with your hands before heading out. Sand can get incredibly hot on a sunny day and if it’s too hot for you to walk barefoot then it’s definitely too hot for them and there’s a chance they’ll suffer serious burns. Please make sure there is always suitable shade for your dog on a sunny day!
Your dog needs plenty of drinking water and it is up to you to provide it. The sea is not a suitable water source and will lead to your dog being more dehydrated. Take it from someone whose dog decided to drink salt water… No one wants to clean up the mess that comes out the other end! Drinking sea water can cause your dog to have severe diarrhoea and vomiting.
Sea water is not the only water risk, as there is always the chance that streams and rivers may be contaminated too. Your best bet is to bring your own water source and a bowl that your dog is happy to drink from.
When playing on the beach your dog can quite easily ingest sand. This becomes dangerous when consumed in large amounts as it can result in a build up in your dog’s stomach or intestinal tract, causing blockages known as sand impaction. To prevent this play on the wet sand over the dry sand as this will be more compacted and therefore less likely to kick up. Wiping the sand off your dog’s toys periodically will also help.
It is not unusual for palm oil to wash up on Cornish beaches which is toxic to dogs. You will sometimes see a scattering of white waxy lumps that look almost like pebbles, whilst other times there will be small pea-sized lumps along the strand line. Whilst palm oil is non-toxic to humans, there are reports of dogs becoming seriously ill, and in some cases dying, after eating small amounts found on the beach. If you come across palm oil on the beach I’d advise keeping your dog on a lead. If you suspect your dog has consumed the substance then please take them to a vet as quickly as possible.
If you’re visiting rough, open countryside then there’s a chance you might come across an adder. They’re beautiful snakes and not at all aggressive but like most things, they will attack if they feel threatened. Their bite is venomous and can be fatal to dogs.
Cornwall is full of farm animals and it’s important to keep both your dog and them safe when exploring. It’s good practice to keep your dog on a lead and when on Open Access land it’s a legal requirement to do so. Always follow The Countryside Code, make sure your dog is under control, and remain aware that a farmer has the legal right to shoot your dog if they deem them a threat to their livestock.
If you don’t live in the countryside then you might not be used to dealing with ticks. They’re common here, and pose a threat to your dog as they carry diseases such as Lyme disease and babesiosis. Quick removal is key to protecting your dog. When exploring the countryside checking for ticks should be part of your daily routine. If you don’t already know how to safely remove ticks then I’d recommend asking your vet to show you how as improper removal can lead to problems with the head remaining embedded in your pet.
The south-west is a beautiful area to explore and there’s plenty of fun to be had with your furry friends, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution and be aware of possible risks to both yourself and your pets. Happy holidaying!