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Kids, dogs, sun, sea

/ 09:04 AM April 26, 2019

Holy Week penitence is still around with the scorching heat, and it’s tempting to go off again this weekend to swimming resorts or beaches.

I think (hope) we’re all prepared to handle children’s needs, making sure they are protected from heatstroke, sunburn, dehydration, jellyfish stings and injuries from walking barefoot on the beach.

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Most preventive measures involve common sense, but we still have blind spots when we think of all these risks, for example leaving children alone in a vehicle with the excuse that the engine is on, together with the aircon. All kinds of mishaps can occur when you do that, from carbon monoxide poisoning if the vehicle is in an enclosed space, to the passengers suffocating in the heat if the air-conditioner fails.

We also underestimate the need for water, bringing only a small bottle, for example. The standard prescription of eight  glasses of water a day is far from adequate, given how much we sweat during our summers.

A side precaution here: Many plastic containers still contain BPA or bisphenol A, an industrial chemical that can cause health problems (brain, behavior, development of fetuses). Check the bottom of the bottle; if it has a number 3 or 7, there might be BPA in the container. Better to just look for containers that are certified BPA-free, or use a thermos since BPA-free plastic is still plastic, with problems for the environment.

I’ll wear my hat as a veterinarian now and tackle the problems of dogs and cats. As with humans, look out for dehydration and heat stroke. You have to have enough water bowls around the house for your pets, and if you take them with you on trips, be sure you’ve packed in water, and a bowl or rubber plate.

Dogs and cats can get sunburn, too, with breeds that have white coats or thin hair being more vulnerable. I haven’t seen pet sunscreen in the Philippines; don’t use the ones made for humans, because they may be toxic to the pets, which are prone to licking them.

Besides sunburn, don’t forget that pets’ paws are very sensitive to heat. I learned this the hard way the first time I brought a dog to the beach; she whined like crazy when she landed on the sand, almost as if she had stepped on an anthill. Stupid me forgot the sand was hot, very hot.

Whether hot or not, the sand may also have sharp objects, including sea shells. Humans have the advantage of having shoes or slippers, but dogs only have dog socks, which are totally useless against heat and sharp objects.

I haven’t brought cats to the beach, but I don’t think they take well there. Dogs are ambivalent. Some, like my dachshund, needed time to get used to the sound of the surf. She loves the sea now, but only to watch, quite happy sitting under a beach umbrella. I did think of sunglasses, but have not found UV-certified ones for pets. (I actually don’t trust the ones for kids either, and feel we should keep kids and dogs minimally exposed to the sun.)

Should dogs swim?

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They’re okay with pools, if you have your own. Public pools are not likely to allow them in.

And the sea?

I would advise against it. Both children and dogs are more vulnerable to ingesting too much saltwater, which can cause a range of problems, from stomach pains to salt poisoning (tremors, convulsions and, ironically, dehydration).

Children, especially older ones, are able to avoid taking in too much seawater. Dogs can’t do that, especially when their owners are forcing them to swim despite waves and the strong ocean current. Dogs swim instinctively, and I suspect they’ll be okay with shallow rivers and lakes, but the sea is just too problematic.

Then there is the risk of jellyfish, both for humans and dogs. Resorts usually have warnings about jellyfish areas and times during the day for higher jellyfish risks, usually when there are few waves.

No matter how well-trained a dog is, you should still have a leash. My dog will sit for long periods on a beach blanket, happy to see the world go by. But there are times, too, when she’ll decide to run off to other dogs, or humans, thinking everyone is as friendly as she is.

Let your dog exercise you with leisurely strolls. Watch out not just for what she steps on, but what she picks up from the sand. My dog’s prized find last weekend was a baller that read “Sagot ko. Itaga mo sa Bato,” an election giveaway from the former Philippine National Police chief now running for the Senate.

[email protected]inquirer.com.ph

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