A SOMERSET veterinary practice is sharing advice to help prevent dog owners from having to send out SOS distress calls during the summer holidays.

Quantock Veterinary Hospital in Bridgwater is warning dog owners of the dangers facing their pets while out walking and playing on the beach.

Seawater, seaweed, sand, picnic leftovers, palm oil, jellyfish and dead crabs and sea birds washed up on the shore are among the hazards that can cause illness and injury or even be potentially fatal.

Vets expect to see a number of dogs coming into the veterinary hospital in The Drove this summer with symptoms including diarrhea and vomiting and, in some cases, liver damage, after eating something they shouldn’t on the beach.

Quantock Veterinary Hospital clinical director Dr Louise Ash has issued the following tips to help owners keep their pets safe at the beach:

• Always keep your dog in sight when they are swimming in the sea and consider using a dog life jacket to keep them afloat. Although most dogs will be accomplished paddlers, strong currents and high waves can cause some pets to become distressed, tired and in danger of drowning.

• Watch out for jellyfish, as a sting could trigger a potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. Symptoms of a jellyfish sting include blistering, burning pain, changes in heart rhythm, difficulty breathing, itching, nausea, fever, excessive drooling, vomiting, swellings and hives.

• Seaweed, washed-up crabs and dead sea birds are tempting to dogs but can cause sickness. Seaweed can become lodged in the stomach and intestines, causing discomfort and pain, and may need to be removed surgically. Sand can also cause blockages and upset tummies.

• Sea water contains lots of salt, which is toxic for dogs, plus bacteria and parasites. Salt drying on a dog’s skin can cause irritation and severe itching, so take enough fresh water for your dog to drink and to rinse them off after swimming in the sea.

• Rubbish, such as discarded food or wrappers, can cause illness or a blockage if eaten. Take some of your dog’s favourite treats or a toy you can swap for anything they might pick up. If you try and force something out of their mouth, they’re more likely to swallow it.

• Watch out for palm oil, which looks like lumps of fat. While harmless in its normal state, it can be dangerous to dogs when washed up on the beach as it is laden with bacteria and other harmful waste found in the sea. It can also trigger pancreatitis, which can occur if a large amount of fat or oil is eaten.

For advice, or if you suspect your dog has eaten something it shouldn’t have while at the beach, Quantock Veterinary Hospital advises contacting your vet immediately.