By taking the right precautions when your dog goes swimming, the two of you can avoid dangerous situations as well as costly infections and injuries.
Bodies of water can provide an endless amount of fun for you and your dog, especially in the summer months. As a general rule, dogs should be monitored and cared for around water like children. Though most dogs take easily to water, others need more coaxing and still others will never comfortably be water dogs. The most important thing to remember is to NEVER THROW A DOG IN THE WATER. Sometimes all it takes is a little patience (and maybe a few treats) in the shallow end to bring out the passionate swimmer in a dog. Gauge your dog’s level of anxiety or enthusiasm to determine when and if to venture out of shallow waters. Never leave a dog unattended in the water either, no matter how accomplished a swimmer he may be.
Like people, dogs can sunburn, especially those with pink noses and/or a thin coat. The sun’s rays are more intense when reflected by water so it’s important to apply sunscreen to your dog’s exposed skin, usually around the muzzle, head, and ears before leaving the house. Be mindful when you reach your destination that your dog’s paws are like bare feet. Avoid prolonged exposure to hot sand, asphalt, and cement. As well, be careful of any broken glass and other dangerous litter that may be lurking around your favorite swimming spots.
Swimming is strenuous exercise for people and dogs. Be sure to provide plenty of rest in the shade and clean drinking water for your dog. Never let your dog drink sea water or lake or pond water. Seawater can make your dogs sick and fresh water bodies, especially those that are stagnant, can harbor dangerous parasites like giardia that are hard to treat if ingested. Other more dangerous fresh water hazards are toxic blue-green algae blooms that, if ingested, can kill your dog in under an hour. Not all blue-green algae blooms are toxic but there is no way to tell which are so it’s important to keep your dog out of a water body if you notice any blue-green scum on the water’s surface. If your dog experiences diarrhea, vomiting, or excessive gas after a day of swimming, take him to the vet immediately.
At the beach, your dog is just as sensitive to jellyfish stings as you are as well as microscopic organisms called sea lice that proliferate in swarms in the summer months. These organisms are actually thimble jellyfish larvae which, though still young, can cause severe itchy rashes in dogs, as well as people. Look for signs posted on beaches where sea lice outbreaks have been recorded and check with the lifeguard if one is present to inquire about any unusual water conditions. Also, be careful of strong tides. Your dog can be pulled out by them just as easily as you can. Afterwards, thoroughly rinse your dog’s coat. Salt and other minerals in seawater can cause coat damage and skin irritation.
After swimming in any water body, be sure to dry the insides of your dog’s ears to avoid infection.
To increase water safety for your best friend overall, there are many different types of dog lifejackets available at pet stores. To increase water fun for you and your dog, there are also many types of floating toys available.