When you have a young puppy, it is so tempting to take them out on new experiences, and nothing beats taking them to the beach. However, the beach is a high risk for parvo and there are certain factors that when combined, could make your puppy very ill.
Last summer I chatted with our vet friend and asked her whether dogs can get parvo at the beach? What follows is a concise version of the conversation we had, with some extra references to information I’ve found online.
Can parvo be found on the beach?
Parvo can be found at the beach, and it’s definitely a high-risk area for puppies that have not completed all of their vaccinations.
Puppies can get parvo at the beach, particularly if they come into contact with a dog that has not been vaccinated and is infected. This where the highest risk comes in, particularly if your puppy is yet to complete their full set of shots.
But it’s not just infected dogs at the beach that are a high risk. There are also dangers in the sand, and possibly the water.
Canine parvovirus can live for many months outside of an infected animal. If your unvaccinated puppy was sniffs, licks, or otherwise ingests infected parvo faeces at the beach, it will become ill.
However, the statistics for dogs and puppies getting parvo at the beach haven’t ever been researched and published. But I have my own assumption that it is probably lower on average than puppies contracting parvo in other environments.
The reason I say that is because whilst parvo virus can live in the earth very resiliently for months, the sand on a beach is constantly moving, being replaced, getting hot, and being washed by the tide. These factors can disperse and kill the parvo virus.
Here’s what Dr Hudson of Noah’s Ark Veterinary Clinic in Nelson Bay, Australia said about parvo and beaches in 2017 in an interview with the Port Stephens Examiner.
“We recommend people stay out of the parks that dogs frequent, particularly at holiday times. People should only be introducing their puppies to other dogs they know are vaccinated. You can still take them to beaches because the tide cleans the sand.”
What he meant by that is “appropriate beaches”. I think that means beaches where the sand does get washed. If there are dune areas, it could be a different matter, not matter how small the risk.
Is the beach safe from parvo?
But, this doesn’t’ mean the beach is safe from parvo. There are certain factors which when combined, can offer the perfect breeding ground and survival for canine parvovirus.
Parvo can live at the beach, and here’s why…
Does parvo live in beach sand?
Parvo can live in beach sand, although if near water, the tide can wash the canine parvovirus away as it cleans through the sand. However, for beach sand that doesn’t get cleaned by the tide, it is possible for parvo to survive for as long as 7 years if buried in cool sand.
Canine parvovirus is very resilient and can live for years outside providing it’s not subjected to direct sunlight. This is why, providing the right conditions are in place, parvo can live in beach sand.
For me, this means that you should be cautious around beach dunes which are in shaded areas and where the tide doesn’t get to. This could create the ideal scenario for parvo to still live in the sand for years after it was deposited.
Handy Hint: The theory is still out on whether dogs can get parvo twice. Take a look at why there could be a slim possibility your dog could get parvo more than once.
Can parvo live in water?
Parvo is extremely contagious and can be picked up by puppies when they come into contact with infected dogs, or even items that the infected dog has touched… and that can include water.
For example, parvo could live in the drinking water of an infected dog, so you would not want your puppy to share the same bowl.
But when it comes to the beach, I believe things are a little different. Whilst I would imagine parvo can live in ocean or sea water, the chances of your puppy ingesting it is extremely slim due to the movement and dilution in the ocean.
However, as with all of the advice I am giving in this guide to puppies getting canine parvovirus at the beach, I would encourage you to talk with your own vet before making any decision.
But above all, make sure your puppy is vaccinated with their latest shots, and you don’t take them to the beach for at least a few weeks after their last set of injections.
Handy Hint: For more information on when the best time to take a puppy to the beach is, and how to keep your dog safe on your day out, read this guide to dog beach safety.
How puppies can get parvo at the beach
Now we’ve established that puppies can get parvo from the beach, I wanted to go into a little bit more detail about how it works, and why you need to be careful.
Whilst the risk of getting parvo from sand is relatively low, it is still possible, with the higher risk from to contracting it at the beach from contact with other dogs.
Puppies who have yet to have their vaccinations are at risk of contracting parvo every time they are in close contact with dog faeces. That can come from the smallest of particles entering their nose or mouth.
Canine parvovirus spreads very quickly to the dog’s stomach, infecting their small intestine. The disease is potentially fatal, with a survival rate of between 68% to 92% (according to AKC.org). Puppies that make it through the first 3 to 4 days of infection typically make a full recovery.
Handy Hint: Despite the popular belief, research from 2012 suggests that cats can now get parvo from dogs.
How to stay parvo safe at the beach
If you want to reduce the risk of your puppy getting parvo at the beach, then the most sensible thing you should do is not let them outdoors and socializing without up to date vaccinations.
Vets tend to give puppies 2 to 3 sets of immunisation shots, for example:
- 6 to 8-week vaccination: the C3 vaccination shot will often have already been given to your puppy before you take them home from the breeder.
- 10 to 12-week vaccination: the C5 vaccination will be done by your vet to protect against canine parvovirus, distemper, kennel cough, and hepatitis.
- 14 to 16-week vaccination: vets will recommend that some puppies have a third booster, but it’s more common just to have the first two.
After the second set of injections, vets recommend you wait around 2 weeks before taking your puppy out in public – which includes the beach. That will put most puppies around the age of 16 weeks or 4 months old before they can safely visit a beach without worrying about parvo.
However, even dogs that have been vaccinated can contract parvo, but this is very rare and when the vaccinations haven’t worked.
Even if you don’t vaccinate your puppy, it doesn’t mean they will get parvo. Canine parvovirus is so widespread that dogs do actually build up a semblance of immunity to it. But younger dogs are still at risk, with the risk of contracting parvo diminishing significantly at ages 3 and over.
What this means for you and your puppy is that the safest time to take them to the beach with no concerns about parvo risk would be once they hit the age of 3. After that it would almost be unheard of them to contract and get ill from it.
Signs of parvo
According to PetMD.com (view source), the symptoms of canine parvovirus are:
- Severe, bloody diarrhea
- Severe weight loss
Your puppy will love going to the beach for the first time. But all that running, digging, and jumping in the sand will come with small risks of parvo if they have not completed their vaccinations.
You should wait at least 2 weeks after your puppy has had their second set of vaccinations (or third if recommended by the vet), before taking them outdoors.
At this age and with a full set of injections it is almost unheard of that your puppy will get parvo from the beach.