Beach dog familyMany dog owners love to take their canine companions to the beach with them during the summer. Unfortunately, other people (particularly non-dog owners) sometimes take exception to having Bowser on the beach. These individuals often cite potential infectious disease risks as a reason to ban dogs from the beach.

While there are some potential infectious disease risks associated with having pet dogs at the beach, they are minimal. Also, some simple, common-sense steps can greatly reduce the risks that do exist. The infectious disease risks from feral (wild) dogs and wildlife defecating in the sand are much greater.

  • The biggest health risk is actually probably from dog bites. Bites can be avoided through proper handling and training of dogs that are brought to public beaches.
  • Many different bacteria (e.g. Salmonella, Campylobacter) can be passed in the stool of even healthy dogs. Some of these can be harmful to people, but only under certain circumstances, such as if they are swallowed or if they contaminate an open wound.
    • Promptly picking up any stool passed by a dog greatly reduces the risk of significant contamination of the sand. Also, sunlight is an excellent “disinfectant” and will help kill any residual bacteria left behind.
  • Dogs can also have different kinds of zoonotic parasites in their stool.
    • Some of these parasites (e.g. roundworms, hookworms) are passed in a form that takes days to become infectious to people. So promptly removing dog stool from the beach minimizes the risk of transmission.
    • Other parasites, such as Giardia, are immediately infectious when passed in the stool, but must be swallowed to cause infection. Prompt removal of dog stool, good hand hygiene with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before eating, and avoiding sand contamination of food and drink should largely eliminate this risk as well.

Overall, the risks of having dogs on beaches are very low if people behave responsibly, specifically properly restraining their dogs and promptly picking up stool.

More information about zoonotic diseases associated with contamination of sand and Sandboxes is available on the Worms & Germs Resources page.