If dogs could talk, they would vote summer as their favorite season. For many dogs, the ultimate summer experience includes time with family in—or on—the water. Whether you are loading up your canine companion for a day at the beach, lake, river, or pool, Somerset Animal Hospital wants you to keep these tips in mind, to ensure your dog days of summer go swimmingly—not belly-up.
You are your dog’s lifeguard
When you are planning your day on the water with your dog, you are your pet’s lifeguard. You are responsible for making decisions and assessing situations to keep your pet safe.
- Swimming ability — When selecting your water destination, remember your dog’s skill level as a swimmer. Is your dog brand new to water, lacking in confidence, or entering their senior years? Stick to shallow, quiet waters and calm locations. If the water will be too difficult to manage, do not take the risk, and leave your dog at home.
- Danger signs — When visiting a lake, river, or the ocean, watch the size of the waves and do not forget about the possibility of undertow. In still waters and on pond and lake shores, look for blue-green algae. This thick, green slime, called cyanobacteria, causes liver failure and neurotoxicity in dogs when ingested. Only a few ounces can quickly lead to respiratory arrest. Only let your dog drink water you provide and only from their own bowl.
You are your dog’s protector
That dogs are natural swimmers is a misconception—many dogs are poor swimmers, and some cannot swim at all. Rather than assuming your dog is fully equipped for an aquatic adventure, provide the following:
- Swim lessons — The doggie-paddle is more a survival mechanism than a swimming style. Introduce your dog to the water gradually where they can wade in with you. Encourage and praise them for going into the water, and never shame them for retreating to land. Never drop or throw a dog into the water.
- Life jackets — Life on the water can be unpredictable. Dogs can be ejected from boats, fall off of docks or sea walls, and refuse to take a break when they should rest. A brightly colored life-jacket increases visibility, provides a handle for pulling in castaway dogs, and saves fatigued dogs who swim beyond their physical limits.
- Exit strategy — Dogs who do not understand how to exit a pool tragically drown every summer. Ensure your dog understands where the pool steps are, and how to use them. Your pool may be fenced, but this is an important life skill. A variety of lightweight, adjustable ramps designed to help dogs get out of the water are available. Never pull your dog out of the water by their collar or forelegs, which could be dangerous for you and your dog.
- Fencing —To prevent accidental drownings of children and pets, ensure your pool is fenced and the gate is kept locked. Dogs should never swim without supervision.
You should blow the whistle on fun—occasionally
A dog’s enthusiasm is a joy to watch and can appear endless, but dogs are like children and rely on us to set their boundaries. Watch for the following:
- Fatigue signs —Rest your dog regularly and provide ample fresh water and shade. If your dog begins to show heat stress signs, pants excessively, loses coordination, or behaves strangely, take them indoors to recover. If signs persist, seek prompt veterinary assistance.
- Water toxicity — Do not allow your dog to drink excessive amounts of water while swimming or playing, because dogs who ingest too much water while swimming can develop water toxicity. Initial signs include nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and abdominal distension. In severe cases, weakness, seizure, and coma are possible. Water toxicity requires prompt veterinary attention and hospitalization.
- Swimming distance — Watch that your dog does not swim out too far. A long leash made of waterproof biothane clipped to a life jacket can help control a dog who likes to swim out, but not back.
You are your dog’s helping hand
Peace of mind comes from being prepared. The following resources will provide confidence and security for any adventure.
- First aid first — A well-stocked pet first aid kit can help you treat your dog’s minor wounds, bug bites, abrasions, and apply temporary bandages. Always restock your supplies and replace expired medications. Your first aid kit should also include veterinary contact numbers, such as our hospital phone number, and the nearest emergency veterinary facility.
- CPR — Learning to perform pet CPR is an important skill for pet owners, and more so if you spend time in or around the water together. Knowing CPR can save your beloved pet’s life.
At Somerset Animal Hospital, we want your summer to be full of happy memories with healthy pets, and these tips will help ensure your trip to the water’s edge, and beyond, is a splashing success. Give us a call to discuss additional ways to keep your pet safe this summer.