Can My Dog Get Bitten By Fleas At The Beach?

PET CHECK UK - Coastal Information - Sand hopper "flea" found on beach close-up

\\\ Dog-Friendly Beach Walks

\\\ Updated 1 October 2021

What Are Sand Fleas? What Are Sand Hoppers?

What Are Sand Fleas? What Are Sand Hoppers?

UK beaches are home to ‘sand fleas’ (the scientific name Talitrus saltator) 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 mornings and found all round the UK beaches. They are an important part of the coastal eco system that coastal birds feed off.

The image above features a sand hopper covered in bits of sand photographed on a humans hand.

Like human fleas, when disturbed, sand hoppers can hop several inches from the ground being referred to incorrectly as ‘sand fleas’.

The British coastline has more than 11,000 miles of beaches and sand hoppers are found all around and will not bite you or your dog.

The Wildlife Trust provides detailed information about the Sand hopper.


Sandflies 

Sandflies can bite you and your dog when on UK beaches

The Sandfly

The Phlebotominae are a subfamily of the family Psychodidae, commonly known as the Sandfly. Read more at Wikipedia.

Sandflies are found in many sandy regions around the world and are a generic term of several differing species of flies. They look very much more like common house flies.

Sandflies that bite are females, who bite and suck the blood of mammals, reptiles and birds, where the protein found in blood is required for their reproduction of their eggs.

The coast provides several biting gnats, midges as well as Sandflies, leaving tiny welts, raised red scars or marks on the skin on human skin. These generally are not harmful, being more a nuisance, just like fleas that may attach themselves to you and your dog, after visiting the park for a dog walk, and attack your dog, often yourself and infest your home. You may find yourself scratching these affected areas.

When coastal walking you can try using mosquito repellents, 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 a cluster. Check with your local pharmacist if you are experiencing problems for yourself.

Your Dog

Sandflies are prone to biting feet and underbody of dogs being the closest proximity to the sand. Your dog will start scratching and continue to do so, just as if they have ‘normal’ flea bites.

When you arrive home after a day out on the beach, a thorough bath is always 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. If you suspect your dog has Sandfly bites, there are special flea shampoos that you can use.

Your vet will need to assess the extent of bites and remove meticulously these tiny crustaceans from your dogs skin and fur, just like ‘normal’ flea bites, and can provide you with shampoo recommendations.

Can Sandflies Bite During The Winter?

Sandflies do not stop biting you and your dog during the winter. Sandflies are found on UK beaches all year round.

The reason why we hear more about these flies during the summer is simply more dog owners with their dogs visit beaches during warmer weather.

During autumn and winter months, we wrap up more to go dog walking and visiting our beaches, covering our legs, arms, and boots on, so there is less chance of being bitten. Likewise, dogs can often be seen wearing their dog coats during colder weather on beaches, and not swimming in rougher colder seas, being wrapped up more where the sand flies have less chance to attach themselves to you and your dog.

Dog walks can be, generally, a little shorter during the winter because of the cold, sometimes once a day instead of twice, due to shorter daylight hours, and the sea is less appealing during colder weather, to those UK residents living inland who make special day or weekend journeys to visit.



Are Routine Dog Flea Treatments Needed Before Visiting A Beach?

Normal Dog Flea Treatments Are Not Required Before Visiting A Beach

Pet Check Blog has written an informative ‘Normal pet flea routine treatments‘ blog. Monthly routine dog flea treatments are not especially required prior to visiting the beach with your dog.

Specialist flea treatments

If you are seeking specialist flea treatments try for your pets try –

  • Viovet for flea, ticks, lice and mite prescription medication. Viovet are a Registered Veterinary Retailer.
  • Joii Pet Care offers monthly subscription treating fleas, for your dog and cat recommended by qualified vets.
Routine flea treatments

Try the following for routine treatments –

  • itchpet Itch pet delivers regular, convenient, monthly by post, effective treatment from fleas for dogs and cats keeping your pets flea-free. Wormers and supplements now available.
  • Monster Pet Supplies  dog and cat branded flea treatments available.
  • Jollyes offer health treatments for cats and dogs from stores or order online 24/7.
  • Pets At Home offer a monthly competitively priced flea subscription delivered to your door for your pet.

Read more at US vet website Wagwalking who experience very similar problems to Sandflies seen at UK beaches.

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Best Tips To Avoid Sandflies, Midgets And Gnats

  • 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 in advance, if travelling especially.
  • Avoid walking later evening and early morning with your dog, or if the weather is cloudy as these pests prefer this weather and are out in abundance.
  • Windy days are perfect beach dog walk days as sand flies 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 Jollyes nationwide pet stores or Pets At Home both offer a handy pack suitable for dogs and cats.
  • 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 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 or bring some old towels for your dog to sit on.
  • 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.
  • Store emergency online 24/7 vet details on your mobile in case of any emergency such as Joii Pet Care or your insurers preferred veterinary surgery.

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