Is Swimming in Salt Water Bad for Dogs?

My little dog Max used to love love LOVE the beach.

He would race across the sand, and stop at the water’s edge.

Then he would look back at me and ask (silently) “Can I go in mom? Can I, huh?”

Without waiting for a response, he would splash in and start to paddle.

You hear a lot about how good is salt water for humans and their skin. But it got me thinking, what about salt water and dogs?

Is swimming in salt water bad for dogs? No, salt water is not bad for your dog. It is safe to take your best buddy for a swim in the sea. However, continued exposure to salt water (freshwater included) combined with intense heat may result in coat and skin issues in the future.

This article goes into great detail about how to keep your dog safe and comfortable if they like to swim in the sea.

Even if you are well-experienced, I’m confident you will benefit from reinforcing what you already know or learning something new. That way, both you and your dog can enjoy a wonderful together at the beach.


The Consequences of Too Much Swimming in Salt Water

You’ve heard the saying “Too much of a good thing is bad for you”, right?

I can’t tell you how much exposure to salt water is “too much”. That comes down to your dog and breed.

However, I can tell what the physical signs are that your dog is becoming affected by too much salt water.

A dog that swims in the sea too much will develop dry and flaky skin.

Over time, its fur will lose its shine.

In some instances, your dog may begin to go bald in some areas due to the fur (hair) becoming too brittle, breaking down, and falling out of the hair follicle.

Your Dog and Their Breed

My advice is simple.

If you have a born swimmer, take them to the sea for a swim regularly.

If you have a dog that is not born to swim in the sea, don’t do this as regularly.

Check their skin and fur for a reaction to the salt (potentially combined with the heat of the sun).

If you do want to take your dog to the sea for a swim regardless of the breed they are, you can, but not so much that it damages their skin and fur.

Keep in mind, no matter what type of dog you have, just monitor the state of their skin and fur. 

Some dogs are born to swim

Not all dog breeds will experience skin and hair issues, as a result of too much exposure to the salt in the sea.

Some dog breeds were born to swim. The skin and fur of these dogs are more resilient to prolonged exposure to both salt and freshwater.

Some of the born swimmers include:

These “born to swim” breeds have naturally oily coats.

This means that their costs do not absorb salt water and keep their skin moisturized.

Which dog breed should swim less in the sea?

Dogs with double coats

Dogs with a double coat should swim less in the sea. These include the Shiba Inu, Husky, and Akita.

Their coat traps salt water between their softer outer coat and inner coat.

Prolonged exposure to salt water can irritate their skin and promote the growth of bacteria

Dogs with fine hair

The same is true for dogs with silky or fine hair such as the Yorkshire Terrier.

When their fur becomes wet, it exposes their skin to the sun and salt in the sea.

3 Tips to Protect Your Dog’s Skin

Before you send your dog to have a great time in salt water, you need to proactively protect your dog’s skin before they take their first dip.

My first tip is, do not make the mistake of bathing your dog before they run off into the salt water. When you bathe your dog, you remove the natural oils from their skin. The natural oils protect your dog’s skin.

The second tip, once splash time is over, you need to rinse your dog with clean and fresh water. If you have a double-coated canine, ensure you wash their entire body with fresh water, all the way to their feet.

You also do not want your dog’s skin to become extremely dry under the hot sun.

Once you have bathed your dog in freshwater, dry them with a towel, and then instruct them to come into the shade and out of the hot sun.

If you allow the salt water to dry on their skin, you are looking at flaky fur.

Is Drinking Salt Water Dangerous for Dogs?

Drinking salt water is not safe for dogs. It’s good for humans either!

You need to prevent your dog from drinking salt water.

What happens when your dog gulps down salt water? It causes:

  • An osmotic effect, leading to diarrhea and dehydration.
  • Vomiting. If the dog drinks salt water too quickly, they will vomit, leading them to become severely dehydrated.
  • A sickness as salt water contains algae, bacteria, and other types of toxins.

Even small amounts of salt water, may cause them to fall sick.

Moreover, if you are at the beach, your dog may drink salt water mixed with sand. The combination of salt water and sand can worsen their health and harm their intestines. 

Some signs your dog has drunk lots of water salt include:

  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Unstable to stand and walk properly
  • Lack of appetite
  • Tremors
  • Coma.

What to Bring When Your Dog Goes for a Swim in Salt Water?


If your dog has silky hair, sunscreen is a must. You can talk to your vet about the type of sunscreen you should get for your dog, especially if your pet has a silky coat

Dogs with silky hair are prone to sunburn. Not applying sunscreen on them can prove to be quite dangerous for their skin. 

Anti-histamine shampoo

The next thing you should bring with you on your trip to the beach includes an anti-histamine shampoo.

You cannot take a chance on your dog’s health. In the event there is an irritant in the water, they can develop a red, painful, and itchy rash

Once your dog has had fun in the water, apply an anti-histamine shampoo on their skin to ensure their coat and skin remain protected.

You can talk to your vet about the type of natural shampoo and conditioner you should use on your dog.

Conditioners can help restore the lost moisture on their skin and fur.

Water to drink

Bring with you one or two bottles of fresh water.

You also need to bring a water bowl with you, but pouring water in a water bowl works too.

If you notice your dog is panting more than it normally does, give them water.

Most importantly, the only real prevention is to keep a close eye on your dog.

Looking After Your Dog’s Ears When Swimming in Salt Water

You need to look after your dog’s ears when they come out of the sea.

You need to dry off their ears to prevent an infection.

If your dog’s ears remain wet, it can result in an infection, as bacteria thrives and grows in damp surfaces. 

If they are swimming in salt water, there is a higher risk of them developing an ear infection.

Salt water actually increases the speed at which infection sets in.

If an infection sets in, it will infect your dog’s eardrums.

If you are not aware of how to clean your dog’s ears after it has returned from the sea, ask your vet for guidance. Your vet will show you the right way to clean your dog’s ears, post-swim.

Related Questions

Can Dogs Swim in Salt Water Pools without Affecting Their Health?

Your dog can swim in salt water pools. Salt water pools contain ten times less salt than the ocean.

When is pool salt water bad for dogs? Drinking from salt water pools can still make your dog sick, resulting in nausea and dehydration.

Is Swimming in Salt Water Bad for Dogs Provided You Rinse Them Off?

Your dog can swim in both salt water pools and the sea.

You should not rinse your dog off before they go into the salt water, but you should rinse them off once they return from it.

When Can Puppies Swim in Salt Water?

Regardless of what age your dog is, you should not allow them to go into the salt water if the currents are strong.

Some pups can swim right off the bat, but some can, and it is largely due to their breed.

You should make your puppy comfortable in water first, and then take them out for a swim in salt water.

Do You Need to Bathe Your Dog with Shampoo After Each Time They Swim in Salt Water?

Yes, you need to use shampoo and conditioner each time they swim in salt water. You do not want salt water to dry their skin and coat. 


Michelle loves enjoying the outdoors with her dogs. She grew in a big house near the beach with German Shepherds. Nowadays, Michelle has down-sized her dogs to poodles, proving small dogs can enjoy the outdoors too! Her dogs enjoy playing fetch, swimming, and long walks. Michelle and her dogs enjoy escaping the city limits to hike, camp, and swim.

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