Swimming is easily one of the best things about summer. Swimming with your dog, however, might be the best thing about summer! After all, what’s more fun than cooling off while sharing some exercise and relaxation with your pup? But if you fail to take the proper precautions, swimming with your canine can turn un-fun very quickly. Whether cruising the beach, jumping in the pool, or exploring outdoor areas with rivers and lakes, here are 5 swimming tips to keep your dog safe this summer.
Don’t Assume all Dogs Can Swim
Contrary to popular opinion, not all dogs know how to swim. Actually, not all dogs can learn how to swim either. Athletic breeds like retrievers and labs tend to pick it up fast, but denser breeds and those with flat faces like bulldogs and pugs simply aren’t suited for the water (though you’ll occasionally spot an exception!). In fact, according to one popular American Bulldog Guide, drowning is the leading accidental cause of death among both Bulldogs and American Bulldogs—which only shows how closely we need to monitor our pups when they’re playing in or around water.
Similarly, micro breeds like chihuahuas can tire easily, leaving them vulnerable to drowning, especially in natural bodies of waters with waves. If your pup fits either of the above categories, outfit them with a dog-specific life vest or consider skipping the water activities altogether in favor of a safer option like a kiddie pool or sprinklers.
Ask Your Vet About Prevention
Adventure dogs—especially those that frequent rivers, ponds, lakes and oceans—are more susceptible to various illnesses and diseases. If your next outing involves natural bodies of water, visit a vet beforehand. Serious illnesses like Lyme disease and waterborne bacteria like Leptospira can sometimes be prevented with vaccinations. We suggest checking with your vet to ensure you’ve taken all possible precautions before your next water-filled outdoor excursion.
Never Let Them Drink the Water
Drinking salt water can lead to what’s commonly called “beach diarrhea,” a serious condition that can dehydrate or even kill your pup. Pool water contains chemicals, and drinking water from rivers, ponds and lakes exposes your dog to countless waterborne parasites and illnesses—like giardia for instance. Under no circumstance is it a good idea to let your pup drink from unfamiliar water sources, so keep a close eye anytime they approach the water’s edge. Because accidents happen, monitor your pet in the days after water activities, looking out for any signs of disease or infection—such as lethargy, diarrhea, fever, or loss of appetite. If you spot anything suspicious, visit your vet immediately. Quick tip: Thoroughly bathing your pet after swimming can help reduce their chance of suffering a waterborne health complication.
Beware Blue-Green Algae
Cyanobacteria, commonly called blue-green algae, is a bacteria that forms in both fresh and saltwater. Thriving in warm conditions, this bacteria can be extremely toxic to humans and pets alike. Sadly, for our canines ingestion is often fatal. When exploring outdoor spaces with natural bodies of water, always be on the lookout for blue-green algae, which typically floats on the water’s surface (if you don’t know what it looks like, click here). If you come across water covered in what looks like blue-green algae—even if you’re unsure and cannot confirm either way—it’s best to find another spot to play.
Learn Doggy CPR
Even if you do everything correct as a pet parent, accidents can still happen. That’s why it’s crucial that every dog owner learn canine CPR. While brief CPR guides can be found online, we suggest taking a course in person from your vet or a local animal organization for more thorough training.