Pet owners on alert after 'dangerous' creature washes up on Aussie beach

The critters have been known to make dogs very ill.

A "pretty dangerous" discovery at an Aussie beach has sparked a warning for beachgoers with pets after many were left perplexed over what it actually is. A photo of the blue creature shared online had people guessing its true identity, with a marine wildlife expert revealing dog walkers should keep their distance.

"It's commonly called a blue button," James Cook University PhD candidate Scott Morrissey confirmed to Yahoo News Australia. "Or porpita porpita. They're about three centimetres in size, mostly blue but sometimes can be yellow, and they're not a jellyfish, although they look like one."

Blue button sea creature on sand
The striking blue sea creature was spotted washed up on the sand. Source: Reddit

Although not as dangerous as some species of jellyfish, the blue button can still pack a punch. "They have a mild sting so for humans they're not not too dangerous, but it's always best to not touch," Mr Morrissey explained. "They are not deadly but they will give you an irritable rash."

Warning for dog owners

However, "they can be pretty dangerous for dogs" Mr Morrissey warned."I remember, a few years back and there were a couple of cases where dogs were on the beach running around and ate these things and then ended up at the vet because it would be very uncomfortable, with a lot of irritation in their throat," he said.

According to the Veterinary Hospital Broome, the creatures "can cause a strange reaction in our pets which can be quite frightening. Symptoms include vomiting, retching, gagging, trembling and excessive salivation."

The hospital added that "for some unknown reason, we are seeing dogs licking and ingesting them when found on the beach" and urged pet owners to get to a vet as soon as possible if the above symptoms occur.

Aussies around the country urged to keep an eye out

With blue buttons favouring warmer waters, Mr Morrissey warns they can be found around Australia, not just near Darwin where this one was spotted. "There have been a few cases where there's been hundreds of them wash up in Sydney and you definitely find them up on the Queensland coast," he said. "And then along the north of Australia, and sometimes you can see them wash up in WA as well.”

He added that blue buttons can sting as long as they're not dried out, but overall, he thinks they're "pretty cool" from a biological standpoint. "Each little tentacle is its own individual. So there are a colony of individuals that work together and they all have different roles, like some are for defence or for capturing prey or for eating prey."

Love Australia's weird and wonderful environment? Get our new weekly newsletter showcasing the week's best stories.