Sand Impaction in Dogs - How Does it Happen?

Sand Impaction in Dogs - How Does it Happen?

Author WDF Staff


If you love to take your dog to the beach, you probably know how enthusiastic and playful they can get. Most dogs love spending time on sandy beaches, swimming, and playing in the warm summer sun. However, there is a potential problem many dog owners aren’t aware of. Here’s what you should know about sand impaction in dogs.

What is sand impaction in dogs?

Sand impaction in dogs can be described as total blockage of the dog’s intestinal tract. While sand is lovely on the beach, it is not that nice when it’s lodged in your dog’s intestinal tract. When the sand is dry, it is light, and you can easily brush it off. However, when the sand gets wet, it can easily form a solid lump.

white-shepherd on beach

How does sand impaction happen?

Sand impaction happens when a dog ingests too much sand. Generally speaking, a tiny bit of sand in your dog’s intestinal tract won’t cause too much of a problem. However, when there is a lot of it, it will form a lump that can completely block your dog’s digestion. The biggest problem with it is that dog owners aren’t aware of this potential problem. They will play with their dog on the beach and will only notice something’s wrong when the dog starts exhibiting issues. Here are a few possible scenarios of how sand impaction can happen;


We take our dogs to the beach to allow them to run and play freely on a soft surface. Dogs love running and playing in the sand, and owners love providing that to their dogs. When you throw your dog’s toys, like a tennis ball, it will pick up sand. Your dog will grab it and accidentally ingest some sand. If that happens for quite some time, the amount of ingested sand can be significant.


If you’re visiting the beach during hot summer days, your dog might look for somewhere to cool down. The easiest way to do that is to dig into the sand. The lower parts weren’t exposed to direct sunlight, which means they are significantly cooler. When dogs dig, the sand goes into their mouths, and dogs ingest it.

retriever on a beach

Eating sand

Some dogs find sand so appealing they start to eat it. It is not the only inedible thing dogs might try to eat. They also eat poop or dirt. There is even a condition called “pica” that causes dogs to eat inedible things. If the dog gobbles down too much sand, sand impaction can happen.

Drinking water

If your dog starts gulping muddy water, they might end up gulping down quite a bit of sand. You need to make sure your dog’s water bowl is always clean and sand-free. The same goes for dogs that are playing in the water. You have to prevent them from drinking muddy water.

dog on sandy beach

How can I know my dog has sand impaction?

The best way to know your dog has sand impaction is to look back at the time you spent with your dog on the beach. Try to remember if your dog drank sandy water or if they dug up a hole. Did you play fetch for a long time? All of those things can help your vet determine what’s actually wrong with your dog. Even if you can’t remember whether your dog has done any of those things, you should still tell your vet you took your dog to the beach.

Symptoms of sand impaction in dogs

Most dog owners notice their dogs are exhibiting specific symptoms and problems after their beach visit. If you think something’s wrong with your dog and you’re worried about their health, you should learn what sand impaction symptoms are. Try to match them with your dog. However, call your vet as soon as you notice something’s wrong with your dog; don’t surf the internet for questionable answers. Here are some of the most common sand impaction symptoms in dogs;

  • Severe constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Panting
  • Restlessness
  • Solid mass in the stomach area (very hard under your fingertips)

dog playing with a ball on the beach

How is sand impaction in dogs treated?

The first step to successful treatment is an accurate diagnosis. Your vet will thoroughly examine your dog. They will palpate their abdomen, analyze symptoms, and ask for x-rays. That is usually more than enough to accurately diagnose sand impaction in dogs.

The treatment will have to be determined by the severity of impaction. If your dog gobbled down insane amounts of sand, your vet might demand surgery. That might be the only way to clear all the sand out of your dog’s digestion. The vet will most likely prescribe IV fluids, dog laxatives, and pain medications in milder forms of sand impaction. This type of treatment will help your dog pass the lodged sand. You should know that both forms of treatment might require hospitalization.

border collie on beach

Can I prevent sand impaction?

The first obvious way for preventing sand impaction in dogs is to keep a close eye on your dog. Make sure your dog doesn’t eat sand on the beach. If that happens, you have to stop them. It would be pretty good if your dog knew the “No!” or “Leave it!” command. That way, you can allow your dog to run freely and only yell commands when they start doing something they shouldn’t.

The second thing you can do is take toys that will repel sand. Instead of a tennis ball, take a smooth plastic ball. Instead of a plush toy, take a plastic frisbee. These types of toys will not pick up as much sand as the other ones, and your dog should be able to pick it up without eating too much sand.

Make sure your dog has a place where they can safely cool off. Bring a sunshade and plenty of fresh water your dog can drink. It would be ideal if you could bring enough fresh water to wash your dog. That way, you will remove sand, salt, and debris your dog picked up on the beach. If you can’t bring so much water, you should make sure you wash your dog as soon as you come home.

World Dog Finder team

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