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Pets at the Beach

Martha Stewart Living Television

People love bringing their dogs to the beach to cool off during summer, but I have a pet snake. Is it okay to bring him to public places such as the beach and the park?
It's fine to bring your snake outdoors, but you should never leave any reptile unattended in full sun or for a long period of time. Because they are cold-blooded, reptiles' body temperatures will reach that of the air, so if they're forced to stay too long in excessive heat or sun, their bodies can get too hot. Short, five-minute sun baths are fine, but don't make them any longer than that. It's also a good idea to remember that since many people are afraid of reptiles, you should make sure your pet is well guarded in any public place.

My son loves to collect shells on the beach. We have a small fish tank at home, and I thought some of them would look nice in the tank. Is this okay to do?
This might seem like a harmless way to add visual appeal to your fish tank, but many shells have parasites on them that can hurt your fish. Even if you sterilize them, there are still chemicals called carbonates that alter the water and can have a negative effect on the fish that swim in it. Your best bet is to purchase decorations from a pet store.

I love taking my dogs out for long walks after work, but in the summer, it can still be terribly hot when I get home. How do you know when the hot pavement is too hot for the pads of their paws? And what can I put on the pads so it doesn't hurt them?
A good rule of thumb is that if it's too hot for you to walk barefoot on the pavement, it's too hot for your pet. You can apply a coating of petroleum jelly to the soles of a dog's feet, but an even better idea is to use Musher's wax, which is available in pet stores, offers the same protection, and won't stain the carpets or other fabrics with which the dog comes in contact. Musher's wax is also good for use during winter to prevent a dog's foot pads from cracking because of the cold.

My family loves going to the beach, and when we can, we like to take our dog, too. He's a retriever and loves to swim, but is the saltwater bad for him? Is it bad for his coat or his eyes?
If the saltwater dries on your dog's coat, then it is possible that the natural oils in his or her fur will be depleted, so it's a good idea to hose them off afterward. As for drinking the water, it's likely your pet will imbibe a little as they swim, which can result in slight stomach upset. In general, it's better not to let your dog drink from the ocean or from ponds, lakes, streams, or rivers; all of these can harbor bacteria that isn't safe for your pet. Keep one rule in mind: If you wouldn't drink the water, don't let your pet do so.

Because dogs have a third eyelid, they usually don't suffer much from any of the normal bits of dirt or dust that float in water, but if you notice any irritation -- or if your dog paws at its eyes excessively -- contact a vet. And no matter where you are, be sure to keep your dog in the shade during the hottest parts of the day, and remember that it's possible for a dog to get sunburned, especially if it's light colored or has a thin coat of fur.