Not All Dogs Are Natural Swimmers Summer is the time when people hit the pools, lakes, rivers, and beaches, and many take their canine companions with them. However, not every dog is a natural swimmer. There is no exact statistic on how many pets drown every year, but various sources estimate up to 5,000 pets drown each year in swimming pools alone. It’s imperative that dog owners take every precaution possible to keep their pets safe around the water. Teaching Your Dog to Swim Never assume that your dog can swim, and never throw him in water to see if he can. If you want to teach your dog to swim, do it gradually, and always be close by to assist him if necessary. Even dogs that are avid swimmers can easily become fatigued. Dogs with short legs and snouts typically tire more easily and generally do not make good swimmers. If you have a pool, show your dog the steps and let him practice getting out until you are confident he will be able to exit the pool if he accidentally falls in the water. There are also steps and ramps for pools that are specifically made to help animals exit the pool. If your dog does not want to get in the water, don’t force him. A panicked or frightened dog will not learn to swim, he will simply panic more, and end up more afraid of the water. Let your pooch learn at his own pace. Never leave your dog unsupervised around your pool. If possible, place fencing around the pool to prevent accidents. If your pool is ever covered with a tarp during the off season, make sure there are no holes or openings where your dog can fall through. Also, make sure it drains well. Small dogs can drown in large puddles of water that can accumulate on top of a pool covering. If your dog is learning to swim in a lake or other body of water, always start off in the shallow areas, and keep a leash on your dog as he learns. Dogs that are well trained and listen to commands while on dry land are the easiest to teach in the water. Remember, your dog is always heavier in the water and more difficult to pick up out of the water. Make sure you or someone close by is strong enough to pull your pet out of the water if necessary.
Life Vests It is always an excellent idea to have your dog wear a life vest during water activities even if your dog is a good swimmer. Even good swimmers can become fatigued. Dogs that are more nervous in and around water can become fatigued more quickly, because their respiration increases due to their nervousness or panic. Life vests can make them feel more safe and keep them afloat. It is especially important to have your dog wear a life vest in waters that may have waves or strong currents and riptides. If you are going to the beach with your dog, check for any current advisories. It can be challenging to find a life vest that is the right fit for your dog, because dogs come in all shapes and sizes. If you can, take your dog to the pet store and try on different vest until you find the one that best fits your dog.
Don't Let Your Dog Drink The Water Always have plenty of fresh water on hand for your dog to drink. A small amount of chlorinated pool water most likely will not hurt your dog. However, excessive amounts may cause irritation to the lining of the esophagus and stomach and may result in vomiting, especially if the water is overly chlorinated. Pool water that is under chlorinated can also be a danger to your dog because it can promote growth of harmful bacteria, parasites and algae that can make your dog ill. Rivers, lakes and ponds can also harbor dangerous organisms that can be harmful to your dog. Giardia is a parasite that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, severe dehydration, and malnourishment. Leptospirosis is a bacteria that often infects dogs through contaminated water. Severely infected dogs show signs of lethargy, depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and increased thirst and urination. Leptospirosis can be fatal due to severe kidney and liver failure. Fortunately, there is a vaccine for Leptospirosis. This vaccine is not considered a core vaccine like the Rabies and Parvovirus vaccines. If your pet is going to be in and around rivers, lakes, or ponds, make sure you discuss this vaccine with your veterinarian. Blue-green algae is another bacteria that can be fatal for your dog even in small amounts. Blue-green algae is found on calm waters such as lakes and ponds. Many times the algae will wash ashore and concentrations can be higher along the shoreline, so the area can still be dangerous even if your dog does not enter the water. Unfortunately, blue-green algae is not always easy to spot. Before heading out to a lake or pond with your four legged friend, check for any blue-green algae advisories. Ocean water is not safe for your dog to drink mainly because of it’s salt content. Ingestion of salt water can quickly lead to osmosis of water from the circulatory system into the gastrointestinal system. This leads to severe vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. The speed at which this occurs can lead to fatal kidney failure. Dog owners also need to be aware of a condition called ‘dry drowning’. Dry drowning is when a dog aspirates water into the lungs during a near drowning or just playing around. Even if your dog coughs up the water and appears fine, a small amount of water may remain in the lungs which can create inflammation which can lead to the production of more fluid in the lungs. This can occur several hours to several days after being in the water. Always monitor your dog for any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, coughing, or difficulty breathing after your water adventures and contact you veterinarian if you see any.
Wash Your Dog After Swimming Always wash, or at least rinse, your dog off after he goes swimming to remove chlorine, salt water, sand, and other debris that can irritate and dry his skin. It’s also important to remove the bacteria and other organisms from his fur so that he does not ingest them later while grooming. Make sure you thoroughly dry your dogs ears to help prevent ear infections. You and your dog can have lots of fun in the water. Practice these safety tips and stay diligent to keep your pet as safe and healthy as possible.