Summer Swimming Safety

posted on June 02, 2017 by Dr. Jamie Hartman


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As the weather gets warmer, we turn to the water to relax and cool down.  Many dogs also enjoy water fun, but there are a few things you should know so that everyone has a safe and fun summer!

First of all, not all dogs know how to swim, so don’t assume yours does!  Start small, in a shallow, quiet area of water.  Have your pet on a leash, and get in the water with them.  Gradually work to deeper water together.  As you get deeper, the pet should start to paddle with the front feet.  When it does this, you can help support the rear end to help them learn how to float.  Having a floating life vest can also be a great aid in this.  Both the life vest and the first time in the water should be done slowly with positive reinforcement such as treats, and if the dog is not enjoying it, do not force it.

When at lakes, rivers, or ponds, you will want to make sure there is not any blue-green algae, which is toxic to dogs.  Make sure the current is not too strong for your pet.  Keep them away from fishing gear-they can get tangled, or a hook could get imbedded causing injury.  If you are out where other boats are, make sure your pet has a bright colored life vest on for visibility, and discourage swimming in the boating lanes.  Lastly, make sure you can lift your pet back into the boat, or that your dog can either get back up on the dock or find a piece of shore to get back out of the water.

At the ocean, should you travel to one, you need to make sure you understand the tides, currents, and riptide risks.  Surf has the potential to cause higher waves than your pet may be used to, and even good swimmers can tire quickly in rough water.  Try to discourage drinking of the salt water, as this can make your pet sick, and make sure to have plenty fresh water available for them to drink.  Avoid fish and other things that have washed up on shore-while they may smell enticing to your pet, they could also make your pet sick.

If you have a pool, make sure to keep it safe for your pet.  Have a fence around it to keep your dog out when not supervised or it’s not time to swim.  Keep a sturdy cover on the pool as well-dogs may not realize that the surface is not solid, and can get tangled and potentially drown in soft covers.   Teach your pet how to get in and out-make sure there are stairs or a ramp they can use safely.  Also, make sure your pool is the appropriate temperature-a dog’s body temperature is warmer than ours, so despite the fact they have fur, they have a harder time with cold temperature water and can get hypothermic quicker.

Anytime your pet goes swimming, try to avoid allowing them to drink a lot of water.  Even if it is fresh water not salt water, it can still make them sick-algae, giardia, or bacteria such as leptospirosis can all be transmitted by water.  Rinse your pet well with fresh water after any swim.  Salt, chlorine, algae, pollution or other minerals can irritate skin.  Make sure to dry your pet well also, as moist skin can lead to infections.   Clean ears with a cleaner that contains a drying agent to help prevent infections.  Douxo and Epi-Otic are two that we carry that would work for this.  If you have recently applied a topical flea and tick preventative, you should wait for 2 days before allowing them to swim.  If this is difficult in the summer, we do have an oral flea and tick medication called Nexgard that does not have the same withholding period for getting wet.  Let us know if you would like some of this.  Last of all, never leave your pet unattended while they are in or near the water.  With a little planning and precaution, we can all enjoy a safe summer!unnamed

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Posted in: Canine Health