Owner warns of little-known beach threat to pets

A loveable rescue dog nearly died – after she munched through a pile of seaweed at the beach.

Labrador cross Lola was brought to the UK from a dog sanctuary in Dubrovnik, Croatia, by kind-hearted Rose MacDonald and her partner Shawn Smith.

But on her first seaside holiday, she ended up seriously ill after chewing through a mound of seaweed and needed emergency treatment at Vets Now in Salisbury to survive.

Dried up seaweed can contain dangerous toxins and can also expand in the stomach and become stuck in the intestine.

Children and young people’s worker Rose, 29, of Longhedge, near Salisbury, Wilts, said: “We took her to Millook Beach near Bude, which is where I used to go with my family when I was growing up.

“She loved it and was in and out of the water all day. Lola is a scavenger so we made sure to keep a really close eye on her.

“But she managed to wolf down a load of seaweed when we weren’t looking – and the first we knew about it was in the middle of the night when she began vomiting really badly.

“She brought up a couple of elastic bands – then huge lumps of seaweed. She was very agitated and I could see she was extremely ill.”

Five-year-old Lola was put on an intravenous drip and prescribed anti-vomiting medicine by a local vet in Cornwall and her condition stabilised slightly.

Rose and insurance worker Shawn, 28, then arranged for Lola to be admitted to the Salisbury clinic of pet emergency service Vets Now.

Rose said: “I drove back from Cornwall with my mum. It was an awful journey.

“We had to stop at least every hour to check on Lola but we were desperate to get her seen close to where we live.

“Shawn hadn’t come to Cornwall because he’d had to stay at home and work.

“So we picked him up and went to Vets Now in Salisbury where they were waiting for us and they admitted Lola straightaway.

“They put her back on a drip to get more fluids into her. They checked her bloods and x-rayed her to see if there was anything else blocking her stomach or intestines.”

After an anxious night during which Lola received one-to-one monitoring, she perked up and was well enough to go home the following afternoon – although still, understandably, feeling very lethargic.

Image of Lola the rescue dog for Vets Now article on dog ate seaweed
Tragedy almost struck when rescue dog Lola's ate a mound of seaweed during her first first trip to the beach

Laura Playforth, professional standards director at Vets Now, said: “Seaweed has been championed as a source of vitamins and minerals for both dogs and humans.

“But seaweed washed up on the beach can be very dangerous for dogs.

“During warm weather, it dries up and shrinks to a fraction of its size. If swallowed it absorbs liquid and starts to expand.

“It can then become lodged in the dog’s digestive system, before eventually rupturing it, releasing dangerous digestive fluids and bacteria into the body.”

She added: “In Lola’s case, our emergency vet was concerned she had a foreign body stuck in her small intestine but the x-rays ruled this out.

“She was treated for dehydration and a low potassium and she perked up overnight.”

Signs of seaweed ingestion typically begin with vomiting, diarrhoea and loss of appetite followed by lethargy, depression and weakness.

If untreated, these can lead to potentially fatal dehydration and circulatory shock.

Image of Lola the rescue dog for Vets Now article on dog ate seaweed
Rose and Shawn brought Lola over from a rescue centre in Dubrovnik, Croatia

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Rose and Shawn first set eyes on Lola last year when they visited a rescue shelter in Dubrovnik to donate money and dog food while they were on holiday.

They had no intention of adopting a dog but ended up falling in love with Lola after she offered up her paw.

In November, smitten Rose and Shawn paid to have Lola driven 1,500 miles across five different countries to their home.

Lola instantly hit it off with the couple’s cats, Gizmo and Sunny, and swiftly became an integral part of the household.

Rose said: “It took about a week for Lola to get back to her normal self – which in her case involves following you around the house and rubbing noses with Sunny!

“She’s such an affectionate, good-natured dog – I couldn’t bear to think what life would be like without her.

“This isn’t the first time she’s needed vet care. She had to have an operation on her eye and she’s got a chronic ear condition.

“She also had to have an operation to remove a bit of gun pellet from her tummy – we think she was shot at in Croatia.

“So we really, really hope this is the last time she needs any help for quite a while!

Image of Lola the rescue dog for Vets Now article on dog ate seaweed
Lola quickly became a part of the family and her owners said they couldn't imagine life without her

“When we met her at the Zarkovica shelter we really weren’t looking to adopt one of the dogs.

“But she held out her paw for us – then you could tell she just didn’t want us to let go, and that was pretty much it!

“She’d been in the shelter for three years after she was found abandoned on a country road.

“The shelter does a brilliant job of looking after about 300 dogs – but we were very glad we were able to give one of them a home.”

The Vets Now clinic in Salisbury – where Lola received treatment – was recently rated as an “outstanding” provider of pet emergency care by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

It is one of more than 60 Vets Now clinics and pet emergency hospitals across the UK that are open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.

All of Vets Now’s premises have a vet and vet nurse on-site at all times.