Pets and Water Safety

Jul 22, 2019   Tracey Aston   Pet Safety

Many dogs enjoy the playing in the water and summer time is the perfect time for swimming and enjoying the water. Not only is swimming a fun time and a great way to cool off, it can provide plenty of exercise for an energetic pup.  Swimming has both physical and mental rewards for dogs, but before breaking out the beach towels and sunscreen, take a moment to make sure your pet will be safe during all water activities. As always, work within a pet's comfort levels and never force a dog to do anything out of their comfort zone. Some dogs just aren't water dogs.

Before a pet ever enters the water, take the time to get educated on canine CPR and mouth to snout resuscitation. No one wants to ever think it will happen to them, but water accidents can turn deadly quickly. Equipping your pet with a pet life jacket will add another layer of protection against accidents. Life jackets not only provide buoyancy for your pet, the bright colors provide visibility allowing your pet to be easily spotted.  

One of the biggest canine misconceptions is that all dogs can swim or “doggy paddle” but that isn't always the case. Some dogs are natural born swimmers and others struggle to stay afloat. If a dog becomes frightened and begins to panic, it could cause them to flail around and actually go under the water. 

When first introducing a pet to water, start out slowly and allow the pet to build confidence.  A wading pool or sprinkler system is a good way to gauge your pet's interest in water. If they act fearful, don't force them in them pool. Depending on a pet's personality, some may splash and jump around while others may be content to just lay in the shallow coolness of a kiddie pool. 

Since there's no way to know if a pet is strong swimmer without letting them in the water, if choosing a deeper pool or body of water, always start by choosing the shallow end.  If in a larger body of water such as a lake or ocean, keep the pet attached by either a leash or harness.  Avoid using retractable leashes and always obey the posted leash laws for the beach or lake. 

Currents, riptides or even a fearful pet could cause the dog to be pulled away or under the water. If a pet seems apprehensive but not fearful, attempt entering the water with them while staying upbeat and positive. This is also a great time to utilize a pet life jacket, as it provides safety for a pet and the handles allow a pet parent to control their pet when first introducing them to water. 

If there happens to be an in-ground pool on the property, it's a good rule of thumb to secure the area with a fence to keep the pet safe when it's not swimming time. An excited pet may jump into the pool and not know how to get out, slip, get a cramp or simply become exhausted and all of these situations can lead to dire consequences. A pet can be trained where it's safe and appropriate to enter and exit a pool, for example, the concrete steps into an in-ground pool or a pet ladder for an above ground pool. Please be aware, most pets can climb the thin, slippery steps of a regular pool ladder and will need the assistance of either a water ramp or steps made specifically for pets which are wide and non-slip. 

Never leave a pet alone in the water or leave access to the water if a pet isn't accompanied by a pet parent or friend. 

Water makes things slippery – wet sand or rocks or even the bottom of a kiddie pool can be a slip and fall risk which could lead to injury itself or be the precursor to an even worse injury like a concussion or a pet being knocked unconscious. 

Whether in a pool or outdoor body of water, never let a pet drink the water.  Pool chlorine can be poisonous to pets and many standing bodies of water can develop deadly algae or bacteria which could lead to intestinal distress or worse. The scariest risk of all is the risk of water intoxication. Water intoxication happens when more water is in body fluids than it can process, causing sodium levels to become too low. As sodium maintains muscle function and blood pressure, and an electrolyte imbalance can cause damage to the nervous system and even brain swelling.  While water intoxication may not sound dangerous, it is potentially life-threatening. While water intoxication may not be talked about as much as other water related risks, many pets do die from water intoxication each year. Symptoms of water intoxication include loss of coordination, staggering, vomiting, nausea, lethargy, bloating, glazed eyes, dilated pupils, excessive salivating and light colored gums. Severe symptoms include difficulty breathing, collapse, and loss of consciousness, seizures and coma. 

After a fun and safe day of swimming, diving or even splashing in a sprinkler, make sure the pet is thoroughly dried all the way down to the skin. Leaving water undercoat can lead to hair loss, hot spots and infection.  Check the inside the ears for excess water and dry the outer ear canal with a towel or cotton ball. Never shove anything into a dog's ears like a finger or a Q-tip. Doing so could result in injury or hearing loss to the pet.

If a pet enjoys the water, summer is the perfect time to take a beach adventure with a pet. Taking a few precautions beforehand and being alert and proactive while in the water will guarantee a fun and safe time for all! 

 
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