Can My Dog Get Bitten By Fleas At The Beach?

PET CHECK UK Sand hopper

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Sand hopper pictured on hand

What Are Sand Fleas? What Are Sand Hoppers?

UK beaches are home to ‘sand fleas’ which really aren’t fleas but are sand hoppers! They are part of the marine life that exists in wet sand feeding off decomposing marine vegetation, thriving on cooler nights or early morning. If the weather is hot, they will die but not before they may have bitten you and your dog. The image above features a sand hopper covered in bits of sand photographed on a humans hand

Like human fleas, they can hop, several inches from the ground and hence referred to incorrectly as ‘sand fleas’. They will hop onto you and your dog and can bite, particularly around the ankles or if barefoot, the feet. Dogs are prone to feet and underbody being the closest proximity to the sand. The Wildlife Trust provides detailed information about pests.

The coast provides several biting gnats, midges and sand flies, as well as the sand hopper leaving tiny welts, raised red scars or marks on the skin. These generally are not harmful, being more a nuisance. You may find yourself scratching these affected areas. One can try mosquito repellants, to use on yourself before using a beach and whilst on the beach but there is little you can do to protect your dog other than to move beach location quickly as the pests are normally found moving around in cluster swarms.

Normal pet flea routine treatment is not required especially for visiting the beach with your dog and doesn’t stop the problem of sandhoppers biting.

When you arrive home after a day out on the beach, a thorough bath is recommended removing all excess salt and debris that your dog may have picked up in their coat, particularly if they have been splashing around in the water and may soothe and ease the areas if they have been scratching.

Your Best tips To Avoid Sand Flies, Sand Hoppers, Midgets And Gnats include –

  • Most UK beaches have some sand and shingle particularly exposed at low tide. You will possibly prefer to walk on the beaches during the day when the tide is going out and sand and shingle exposed has had time to start drying out. Pests are generally less active during the late morning and early afternoon when the weather is at its hottest so check the tide times if travelling especially.
  • Avoid walking later evening and early morning or if the weather is cloudy as these pests prefer this weather and are out in abundance.
  • Windy days are perfect beach walk days as sand fleas and other pets are not good fliers in strong winds.
  • Applying a repellent may help following the instructions but generally using at least half an hour before you beach walk and as instructed reapplying throughout the day.
  • If you haven’t already purchased a dog first-aid pack to keep in your vehicle for all unexpected emergencies, then try Fetch who are selling a comprehensive handy first aid kit pack.
  • Cover your arms and legs with clothing, wearing shoes, just as you would do to prevent pests biting when walking inland. In cooler weather, dogs wearing coats may help to keep off some nasty pests.
  • Avoid any areas with sea debris left behind, not just so that your dog doesn’t scavenge but these areas may include the nasty pests.
  • If sitting on the beach, use chairs, loungers, picnic rugs which all help to prevent you from being bitten rather than lying directly on the sand. Let your dog sit on the picnic blanket to avoid direct contact with the sand. If you prefer, you can purchase special dog sun canopies with a sewn-in base mat that may prevent your pet from being bitten whilst lying down on the beach but will also help to shield them from strong sun during the day.

Like all bites and itching, these can usually be treated with over-the-counter pharmacy medicines. Do check with your doctor if they persist.

Your dog may be suffering with mild allergic reactions if bitten which would include

  • Skin rash/ bumps
  • Mild swelling elsewhere on the body
  • Drooling
  • Limping if the legs or feet were bitten

Likewise, if your dog is in discomfort, check-in online with your vet on a 24/7 call, covered by many pet insurer services or contact your local vet.

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