Safe Swimming Tips For Your Dog
How Jake and Maggie enjoy their new toys!
These photos definitely do not show having fun in water or on vacation but I wanted you to see how much they do enjoy life and new toys 🙂
Not all dogs are natural-born swimmers and comfortable in the water. So, when welcoming your canine companion into the pool, take things slow and be mindful of your dog’s limits.
- Supervise – Whether this is your dog’s first time in a pool or they’re a seasoned swimmer, always supervise your dog when in or around the pool.
- Get a Life Vest – They make life vests specifically for dogs and this small investment could be a huge lifesaver! The Outward Hound’s life vest has wonderful ratings. Available in five sizes, ranging from XS-XL, more than 4K people have already shared positive reviews on Amazon. It’s even earned an “Amazon’s Choice” badge!
- Start Slow – All dogs, even breeds designed to thrive in water — tend to be afraid the first time they go into the pool. Never throw your dog into the water or force them to swim if they don’t want to. Instead, encourage them to explore the water, offering lots of praise every step of the way. You can even bring some of their water-safe toys into the pool to make it more appealing.
- Familiarize Your Pup With The Pool – When teaching your dog to swim, The American Kennel Club recommends first carrying your dog into the pool (staying in shallow waters and close to the steps), gently setting him into the water, and then letting him swim to the steps (keeping your hand under your pup’s belly for guidance until he finds his balance). Reward with lots of praise and repeat this process several times, until he gets more comfortable.
- Ladder/Stairs Training – Teaching your dog how to exit the pool is essential. If your pool only has a small, verticle ladder then it may be difficult for your dog to climb. But, it’s still important to teach your dog where to exit. A set of dog-friendly pool stairs or a beach entry pool will make this process much easier for dogs to enter and exit.
- Go at Your Dog’s Pace – Swimming can be a lot of fun, but it’s also an exercise. Your dog will use new muscles and may get tired quickly. So, keep swim sessions short, and don’t let your dog overdo it.
- Don’t let your dogs drink from lakes or ponds – Whenever you take your dog swimming be sure to bring plenty of fresh water to keep them hydrated. Lakes, ponds, swamps and rivers are contaminated with organisms that can be harmful to your dog. In mild cases these organisms can lead to diarrhea, but in severe cases (such as Leptospira) they can be fatal. In addition to bacteria many lakes and rivers are treated with pesticides that can poison your dog. Older dogs, puppies and those with compromised immune systems are more susceptible, but any dog should be discouraged from drinking from outdoor water sources.
- Don’t let your dog drink from the ocean – Drinking from the ocean can make your dog extremely sick. Salt water has an osmotic effect, pulling liquid into your dog’s intestines. This can cause diarrhea and vomiting, both of which can lead to dehydration (often called ‘beach diarrhea’). Unlike normal diarrhea, beach diarrhea is severe and comes on fast, and it causes dogs to dehydrate quickly. If dogs ingest enough salt water they can suffer serious kidney damage which can be fatal.
- Watch out for beach advisories and closures – Many public beaches are monitored for bacteria, and when those levels get too high health departments close beaches. Most beach closures are due to E. coli, which is used as an indicator that there’s likely other harmful pathogens present in the water. If you’re going to the beach with your dog be sure to check for postings at the entrance regarding any current advisories. You can also check online before you head out. In Michigan they have the Beach Guard map that tracks advisories and closures throughout the state. To find out if any beaches near you are affected you can google “your state + beach closures” or use the EPA’s beach advisory map.
- Ask your vet about preventatives – Preventatives are treatments used to prevent your dog from coming down with certain diseases and illnesses. If you spend a lot of time outdoors with your dog talk to your vet about the options that make sense for your dog. Some of these will vary by region (ticks are more prevalent in northeast states, therefore a Lyme vaccine may be recommended), and some will vary depending on your dog’s activities.
- For active dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors the Leptospira vaccine is often recommended. Leptospirosis is a disease caused by the bacterium Leptospira interrogans. The bacteria survives for long periods of time in water, and it’s often found in swamps, lakes and ponds. It can lead to kidney failure and death if left untreated.
- Watch out for Blue-Green Algae – Check out my post https://twoadorablelabs.com/toxic-algae-exposure/. Blue-Green algae, also called cyanobacteria, is a bacteria most commonly found in calm waters such freshwater ponds and lakes. The toxins it creates are dangerous to humans, livestock and pets. For dogs, exposure or ingestion of water contaminated by blue-green algae is often fatal. A lot of it ends up washing up onto the shore, creating even higher levels of concentration. So if you see any suspicious looking algae keep your dog away from the water itself and the shoreline. Unfortunately the bacteria isn’t easy to spot unless it has clumped together. It can appear as green or brown flakes, and when fully bloomed it often appears as a blue-green film sitting on top of the water.
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