It's the first great summer holiday! Memorial Day weekend means family time and for many, the first summer trip to the beach.

What could be more fun than packing up the coolers, the kids, Fido and Fifi and heading to the beach? A game of Frisbee with man's and woman's best friends seems like a perfect way to spend a summer day.

Wait, you want to take Fido to Folly? Better think again. There are several problems with taking Fido to any beach in our local area, and it's best to know what the laws are, since getting a doggie ticket is a way to ruin the holiday.

So many people want to do the same thing that each beach has restrictions on the time of day that dogs are allowed.

For instance, dogs are not allowed on Folly from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during summer's prime beach-going hours. Before and after those times, you can take the pooch, but only on a leash, and you better clean up after him.

At Sullivan's Island, doggie visitors need a permit, and you will need to buy that from Town Hall on Monday through Friday. Visit www.sullivans

At the Isle of Palms, go early if you want to play catch. Dogs can be off a leash only from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m., and that includes playing in the water. Other times, they have to be on a leash. At Beachwalker Park on Kiawah, dogs must be on a leash at all times.

If all of this sounds restrictive, it's really not. It's meant to protect both humans and dogs from aggressive interactions when you bring a lot of visitors together in the sun.

There are a few other things to keep in mind if you decide to include Fido in the family outing.

Did you know that dogs, especially small dogs that are low to the ground, and white dogs can get sunburned? It's not something that many owners think about, but Fido can get sunburned on his stomach from reflected light, and dogs with light-colored coats usually mean light-colored skin that is more susceptible to sunburn. So a day in the sun can mean that the pooches need sunscreen just like everyone else at the beach.

Hint, you can use the sunscreen for humans as long as it is the kind gentle enough for babies.

Did you remember to wear sandals for crossing the hot sand to get to the water? Dogs can get burned on the pads of their feet just like humans, though their feet are tougher.

If you are headed to the beach during the hottest part of the day, consider booties for Fido, or if he's small enough, carry him across the sand or boardwalk. Otherwise Fido could have some very sad paws.

And dehydration and heatstroke are just as big a risk for dogs as people, since they have to pant to cool down. Every day, a dog should drink an ounce of water for every pound. Signs that Fido is in trouble from not drinking enough water include heavy panting and difficulty breathing, according to WebMD.

The tongue and mucous membranes appear bright red. The saliva is thick and tenacious, and the dog often vomits. Treat this the way you would humans by getting them out of the heat and into a cool environment. Bathe them in a cool tub and monitor their temperature. If they don't recover quickly, head for the vet.

Last but not least, not all dogs are good swimmers. They can get caught in a wave as easily as a small child, although they are often better at getting back to shore than people.

If you have a mini-Fido, consider a life jacket while he's romping in the surf. One extra large wave can pull him farther out than you may think.

If you still want to take Fido and Fifi, remember to consider their needs just like every other member of the family, check the doggie rules for your favorite beach and don't forget the leash.

Reach Stephanie Harvin at or 937-5557.