April 28, 2020

Is Saltwater Bad for Dogs' Skin?

Is your dog a beach bum?

Whether your pooch lives for the water or is going on his very first seaside vacation, there are a few things to keep in mind about dogs and saltwater. From saltwater pools to dog-friendly beaches, here in Southern California, our dogs live the salt life.

Is Saltwater Bad for my Dog’s Skin?

In a word: no! Saltwater has a lot of beneficial properties for dogs, just like it does for humans. That said, salt water is naturally much more drying than freshwater. Remember that any kind of repeated exposure to either fresh or saltwater and/or intense heat or sun can lead to skin and coat issues down the road. What does that mean for your dog? Well, if your dog spends a lot of time at the beach, you may notice that his skin becomes a little dry and flaky and that his fur has lost its shine. If he’s particularly affected, you may even see some hair loss due to brittleness. Some dogs are more susceptible than others. Certain breeds – Labrador Retrievers, Chesapeake Retrievers, Portuguese Water Dogs, Irish Water Spaniels – are made for saltwater swimming. Their naturally oily coats resist absorbing drying saltwater and help keep their skin a little more moisturized, too. Double-coated dogs typically have the most trouble with saltwater exposure. The breeds – Akita, Husky, Shiba Inu, etc. – tend to trap saltwater between their dense inner-coat and softer outer-coat. Over time, this can irritate the skin and even promote bacterial growth as a warm, humid environment. Dogs that have fine or silky hair such as Yorkshire Terriers may also experience skin problems at the beach, pool, or in particularly sunny conditions. Because their hair often leaves swaths of skin exposed to the elements, it’s not as protective against abrasive salt or intense sun.

How to Protect Your Dog’s Skin from Saltwater

Planning a trip to the ocean with your dog? Great! Here are a few things you can do to minimize any negative outcomes from sun and saltwater exposure.

  • Avoid bathing your dog just before your trip. Bathing strips away his skin’s natural oils, the purpose of which is to protect his skin against the elements.
  • Once your dog is out of the water, rinse him thoroughly with clean, fresh water. If he’s double-coated, be sure to get the freshwater all the way down to the skin.
  • Provide plenty of shade for your dog so his skin won’t dry out in the sun. Allowing saltwater to dry on his skin and fur is a recipe for flakiness.
  • Talk to your vet about dog sunscreen. Particularly for silky haired dogs, sunscreen is essential for preventing painful, dangerous sunburn.
  • Bring along an antihistamine shampoo in case there is some unexpected irritant in the water. If your dog has an itchy, red reaction after swimming, he may need a quick shampooing. It’s also a good idea to ask your vet about natural dog conditioners that might be helpful in restoring moisture to his skin and fur.

Does your dog love the beach? Gallant dogs spend a lot of time near the ocean! Here in SoCal it’s almost impossible to avoid exposure to sun, sand, and surf. Be prepared, be vigilant, and above all else, talk to your vet about your concerns.  

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