Golden retriever dog swimming in a pool

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Is there anything more enjoyable than watching your dogs playing in the water? Taking your dog for a swim can benefit their health because it provides them with mental and physical stimulation that's gentle on the joints. The pool, lake, or ocean can help your dog cool off on a hot summer day, whether you're lounging around, boating, or paddleboarding together.

Swimming with your dog can be a fun way to bond, but there are safety precautions you should take. Keep reading to learn dog water safety tips to protect them while they have fun in the water.

General Water Safety Tips For Dogs

Bored dogs can benefit from spending time in the water because it provides a mentally and physically stimulating activity. However, knowing water safety for dogs can prevent your pup from ending up in a dangerous situation. Not all dogs are natural swimmers, but you can teach them how to do it and ensure their safety, whether you're at the beach, lake, or pool. Follow these dog water safety tips to ensure your pet swims happily and safely.

Get your dog a life vest

A dog life vest is a crucial component of every pet emergency kit because it will ensure your dog's safety in deep water. There are plenty of dog life vests on the market to choose from, but what's most important is that it fits and they won't slip out of it while floating.1 Every dog should have a life jacket, especially breeds that have difficulty floating, such as bulldogs.2 

While any life vest that fits snugly should help them float, there are several other components you might want to consider, such as:

  • Coverage: Life jackets cover more of your dog's body and can make them more visible, which is ideal for swimming in lakes and oceans. However, if your dog is spending time in the family pool, a basic life vest should be safe enough.
  • Handle: Having a handle on your dog's life vest will make it easier to grab and take them out of the water when necessary. It will also help teach them to swim because you can keep them afloat and guide them in the water.2
  • D-ring: If you're taking your dog out on a boat or another watercraft, you should have them secured on a leash to ensure they won't jump off. The only way to do this is to ensure their life vest has a D-ring.2 Additionally, keeping your dog leashed in a public place is ideal because it will prevent them from running off.

Start slowly

Introducing your dog to water slowly is crucial because you don't know their swimming ability. If they're going to the ocean or a lake for the first time, you can try to find a calm area of warm water to help them get comfortable.1 Similarly, if you're taking them in your pool for the first time, start them off in the shallow end near the stairs.

Some dogs will immediately be interested in getting in the water, while others won't. You can encourage them to step into the water with treats and walk along the shallow edges, letting them slowly get deeper.1

Teach your dog to swim

Not all dogs like or are good at swimming. Certain breeds love water, while others have difficulty staying afloat or swimming. For example, Dachshunds and Corgis have short legs that can make swimming more challenging. 

After letting your dog get used to the water, you can slowly teach them how to swim with toys, treats, or by calling their name. Always start in shallow water and be close to your dog if they panic.3

If your dog is comfortable and enjoying themselves, you can have them step off into deeper water and encourage them to swim toward a treat. Some dogs may need help with this since it can be scary.1 If your dog doesn't step off the edge, you can try to carry them deeper into the water and hold them while they swim.

It's important to note that not all dogs are natural swimmers.1 Some don't want to do it, so there's no reason to force them. Read your dog's body language to determine if they're experiencing stress or anxiety, and never force them to swim if they want to stay in the shallow water.

Join them in the water

Staying close to your dog is crucial, which is why it's so important to make them wear a life vest with a handle. Some dogs may not enjoy swimming, which can cause them to panic due to anxiety. Others might not like swimming right away, so you may have to lift them out of the water.

Woman swimming with dog in a pool

Being in the water with your pooch will keep you close, so if anything happens, you're there and can ensure their safety.

Avoid leaving your dog unattended

Never let your dog go into deep water on their own, even if they're an excellent swimmer. If you're not in the water with them, you should be close enough to keep an eye on them and be able to help if they're in trouble. For example, if your dog is swimming in the pool, it's best to be outside watching to ensure they're safe.

Take regular breaks

Your dog will need time to relieve themselves outside the water. If you're on a watercraft like a boat, plan around your dog's usual schedule. Additionally, your dog should take breaks from swimming because they're exerting more energy than if they were running.1 Dogs can't tell you when they're exhausted, so paying attention to your dog and letting them rest is crucial.

Know canine CPR

Knowing basic life-saving procedures like giving a choking dog the Heimlich maneuver and drowning dogs CPR can help you protect your pet. CPR for dogs is similar to CPR for humans. If your dog goes under the water and stops breathing, you should pull them back to dry land or a boat and check for breathing and a heartbeat.4

Once you've verified the dog is still alive, you can begin chest compressions by placing the heel of one hand over their chest and pushing hard and fast.4 Next, you'll give rescue breaths by opening their airway, covering their nose with your mouth, and exhaling until you see their chest rise. 

You'll continue this process until they begin breathing on their own again. You should also try to get them to the vet as soon as possible. While CPR can be effective, a vet has the tools and experience to help your dog if they ever stop breathing.

Unfortunately, you can't always guarantee your pet's safety in the water unless you hold onto them the whole time. Therefore, you should have a plan for what to do if your dog is drowning and stay near them at all times to prevent it.

Provide clean drinking water

Swimming is hard work, and your dog needs water to stay hydrated. Some dogs might be tempted to drink pool, lake, or ocean water when they're parched, so it's essential to have fresh water with you at all times.1 You can use a portable dog bowl and water bottle to ensure they always have access to clean drinking water. 

Prevent your dog from drinking dirty water by providing access to clean water

If your dog is drinking a lot of water, it might mean that they're spending too much time exerting themselves in the warm sun, and they've become dehydrated. Make sure your dog has a place to rest when they're tired from swimming.

Don't let certain dog breeds swim

Unfortunately, swimming isn't a good activity for all dogs. Some dogs are excellent swimmers and can get into the water and automatically know how to paddle. However, some dogs have difficulties swimming, such as bulldogs, pugs, and bull terriers, because of their weight distribution and the shape of their noses.3

Dog breeds that may have difficulty swimming

These dogs are brachycephalic breeds with short snouts that shouldn't exert themselves because it can lead to difficulty breathing. Meanwhile, corgis and dachshunds have long bodies and short legs that can make swimming challenging, tiring, and dangerous.

Rinse and dry off your dog

Pool water contains chlorine, which can cause skin issues in dogs and people. Meanwhile, lakes and oceans are full of other potential pollutants that affect your dog's skin and coat. Rinsing your dog off can remove anything that might be stuck in their fur, such as algae, while removing any chemicals or harmful substances from their skin. 

After your dog gets out of the water, they'll give a few good shakes to dry themselves off, but you can use a towel to speed up the process.

In addition to drying their coats, you should check their ears. Swimming can lead to ear infections in dogs by introducing moisture to the canal. If the ears aren't dry, that moisture can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Luckily, you can prevent ear infections from swimming with essential dog care products. After swimming, you'll put a few drops in your dog's ears, and the drying agent in the solution will help their ears dry, removing any excess water.

Know the signs of water intoxication

Water intoxication occurs when a dog ingests too much water.5 This is usually rare and is unlikely to happen in the home when your dog drinks from their regular bowl or fountain. If your dog drinks too much fresh water, it dilutes the electrolytes in their bloodstream, potentially causing brain swelling and seizures.

Water intoxication is usually only a major concern during the summer months when dogs are prone to drink more water or spend time in lakes, oceans, and pools. Saltwater intoxication occurs when your dog consumes too much saltwater, and the excess salt in their bloodstream pulls water from the brain cells.5

Signs of water intoxication in dogs

The signs of water intoxication include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Distention (bloating) 

In more severe cases, dogs can experience weakness, coma, seizures, hypothermia, slow heart rate, and death.6

Never let your dog consume ocean, lake, or pool water. Instead, provide them with fresh water to help them stay hydrated.

Don't force your dog to swim

When first introducing your dog to the water, you can gently guide them with the handle of their life vest. However, some dogs don't enjoy the water. If your dog doesn't want to get in or dip their paws, don't force them. Instead, let your dog enjoy spending time with you and watching from the water's edge.

Pool Safety For Dogs

Teaching your dog to get out of the pool is as crucial as teaching them how to swim. Additionally, you should keep the pool fenced off when you can't watch your dog swim. A dog playing in the water alone can be dangerous. This is because pool covers can trap them underneath, which can cause even the strongest swimmers to drown.

Never let your dog drink the pool water. Most of the chemicals are non-toxic to dogs, but high chlorine levels can irritate your dog's skin and cause respiratory issues known as pool shock.5 Dogs with pool shock may collapse after swimming and require IV supportive care to remove the chlorine from their system.5

Beach Safety For Dogs

A fun day at the beach with your dog can turn disastrous if you're not careful. Always check for unsafe water conditions, like large waves that can pull your dog into deep water. You should also check the temperature to ensure it's warm enough for you and your dog to swim.

Furthermore, prevent your dog from drinking salt water because it can cause symptoms like diarrhea or be fatal, depending on the amount consumed.7 Drinking too much salt water can lead to dehydration and upset the fluid balance in your dog’s system, and too much sodium can be fatal. If your dog drinks ocean or salt water of any kind, take them to the vet as soon as possible for treatment because you likely don't know how much they've consumed. 

When swimming with your dog in the ocean, stop them from interacting with marine life. Simply put, some creatures of the sea aren't friendly and can cause serious harm to your pet.

Of course, you should also ensure the beach you visit is dog-friendly and follow any rules for having dogs on the beach. For example, some local beaches might not allow dogs off-leash.

Lake And River Safety For Dogs

When taking your dog to lakes and rivers, be aware of blue-green algae that thrive in warm, stagnant water.5 This algae is toxic to dogs and can cause liver necrosis when ingested and cause shock within just a few hours.5 The best way to protect your dog from harmful algae is to watch them the entire time they're swimming and never let them ingest any water from lakes or rivers. Additionally, only allow them to swim in clear moving water where the algae are less likely to be present. 

Final Notes

Understanding water safety for dogs will ensure a happy, healthy, and safe summer. While watching swimming dogs in the ocean, lake, or pool might seem fun, you should ensure your dog enjoys it and that it's safe for them. While all dogs can benefit from life vests, some need them to stay afloat in the water.

Wondering if swimming is safe for your dog? Talk to a Dutch vet today to learn how to ensure your dog's safety while in the water.

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References

  1. Gibeault, Stephanie. "5 Safety Tips For Boating With Dogs." American Kennel Club, 24 June 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/tips-for-taking-your-dog-out-on-the-water/

  2. "Dog Life Jacket: 4 of the Best Options for Your Dog." American Kennel Club, 30 June 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/why-your-dog-needs-a-dog-life-jacket/

  3. Gibeault, Stephanie. "Can All Dogs Swim? How to Teach a Dog to Swim." American Kennel Club, 3 June 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/teach-dog-to-swim/

  4. "How to Perform Pet CPR." Red Cross, https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/cpr/performing-cpr/pet-cpr

  5. "Summer Safety Tips." Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 26 Sept. 2022, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/riney-canine-health-center/health-info/summer-safety-tips

  6. "Treating Acute Water Intoxication in Pets." ASPCApro, 11 Aug. 2021, https://www.aspcapro.org/resource/treating-acute-water-intoxication-pets

  7. Burke, Anna. "Is It Dangerous for Dogs to Drink Salt Water?" American Kennel Club, 21 Sept. 2020, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dogs-drinking-salt-water/.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

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In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.