Dogs & Jellyfish…not a great mix!

You’re out having a great beach day with your pup, and all of a sudden, your fur baby lets out a whimper or cry he or she has just been stung by a jellyfish!!!

Jellyfish are all too familiar out here in Hawaii, in particular, the Box Jellyfish, and it’s relative Portuguese man-of-war. The Box Jellyfish (aka Sea Wasp) has one of the most dangerous stings due to its fast-acting toxins, which causes unimaginable pain. This pain is so off the chart that it can easily send a human into shock or heart failure (YIKES). The Portuguese man-of-war is just as dangerous and recommended that if you or your pup get stung that you seek medical attention immediately.

Jellyfish influxes in Hawaii happen about eight to ten days after a full moon. Famous beaches, like Waikiki, will post signs to warn beachgoers, but those private type secret beaches may not have warnings, so keep your eyes peeled. The chart below is a great way to help figure out when to stay away from the water and monitor shorelines.

As humans, we are pretty familiar with these gooey looking sea creatures, but our dogs’ curiosity can get them into big trouble with the jellies of the sea. Dogs can suffer stings by swimming in the water, playing around the shoreline, or just sticking their nose in the sand and accidentally coming across a dead jellyfish that has washed up on the shore. 

Now I know what you’re thinking…”It’s dead; what’s the big deal?”. Dead jellyfish are NOT harmless as their stingers still pack a powerful sting for several weeks after they have “crossed the rainbow bridge.”

So how do you know if your dog has been stung by a jellyfish? Dogs can experience one or many symptoms: blistering, burning pain, changes in heart rhythm, high blood pressure, hives, itching, nausea, confusion, numbness, difficulty breathing, excessive drooling, shock, fever, swelling in the face, red or swollen skin, and vomiting. Keep in mind that some of these symptoms may not show up right away, as many symptoms can take anywhere from two minutes and up to three hours to appear.

Jellyfish Sting on a Dog

If your dog has suffered a sting, and is experiencing any of the following: difficulty breathing, experiencing loss of coordination, having muscle spasms, has a swollen tongue or has swelling around their mouth, has several stings on them or is vomiting, then it is highly recommended to get them to the nearest vet as soon as possible.

If you confirm that your dog has suffered a jellyfish sting, call your veterinarian so they can determine if your pup needs to be brought in for medical care. Should you have to bring your dog to the vet, try to scoop up the remains of the culprit into a ziplock bag (careful not to get stung yourself) so the veterinarian can identify which type of jellyfish sting they need to treat for.

Our first instinct is to make our dog feel better as soon as possible. Nothing is worse that seeing your pup in pain.

What should you do if your pup gets stung?

  • Flush the area with white vinegar to prevent the stingers from releasing more toxins into their system. Keep flushing the area with vinegar until you get to the vet, or your dog is no longer uncomfortable.
  • DO NOT scrape away any of the stingers. The pressure you place by scraping will release the toxins into their system.
  • Remove any stingers safely with a pair of tweezers. Wearing gloves will help avoid you suffering any stings during this process.
  • Once you remove all the stingers, apply heat to the area. Believe it or not, using a cold compress will make matters worse and expand the infected area.
  • DO NOT urinate, flush the area with fresh water or seawater, use shaving cream, apply meat tenderizer or use any alcohol. All of these “remedies” are just “old wives tales,” and researches at the University of Hawaii at Manoa has proof that they do not work and can make matters worse.

Of course, having a plan before a sting occurs or being prepared is just as helpful and always a good idea:

  • Monitor jellyfish activity via news outlets or beach warning signs.
  • If you see a jellyfish on the beach, DO NOT touch it, DO NOT pick it up with your bare hands and DO NOT let your dog get near it what-so-ever. Go to to the nearest lifeguard or beach personnel and let them know so they can take proper action.
  • Rubbing petroleum jelly on any exposed skin, nose/snout area, belly, around the eyes, paw pads, and testicle area (if your dog is unneutered) will serve as protection.
  • Take a DIY Jellyfish Sting Kit with you: tweezers, gloves, a bottle of white vinegar, extra ziplock bag, and a Benedryl dose. This kit can be useful for you or your pup.

So the next time you head out to the beach for some fun with your pup, don’t forget to check for those pesky jellyfish so that you can have a safe and paw-some beach day.

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