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On a blistering hot day, owning a pool definitely has its advantages as a refuge from the heat. It also holds the potential for a family tragedy all year round if you are not careful.

Pool safety issues for pets are almost synonymous with those for children, and they go far beyond just careful supervision. With pets and kids, you can never assume that you can watch them all the time. It only takes a few minutes of distraction for either one to fly out the door and into the pool. In fact, one study showed that in the case of children, supervision failed in 69 percent of the drowning incidents.

With that said, pools can be great fun for your pet. Here are just a few of the issues you should consider:

  • Although many dogs love the water, don’t assume they can swim naturally. Never throw a dog into the pool; he may panic and not be able to climb the slick sides to get out of the pool.
  • Even excellent swimmers will gradually lose their ability as they age and become weaker. In addition, senior dogs are more prone to slipping and falling into a pool.
  • Heat and sunlight are more intense around a pool. Your dog cannot keep as cool as you, so watch for signs of overheating. Don’t let your dog drink from the pool; the chlorine will make him sick.
  • In the same vein, you should be aware that chlorinated water may irritate your dog’s eyes. When the two of you are finished playing in the pool, hose your dog down with fresh water to get the chlorine out.

    When designing safety measures, many people find it helpful to think of “layers of protection” to guard against the unforeseen. For instance, when you are away, what’s to stop someone else’s pet (or child, for that matter) from wandering into your backyard pool? The following are a few tips that can avert tragedy:

  • Install a see-through pool fence or barrier. This is your first and best line of defense. There are many quality pool fences on the market. Once installed, keep it closed at all times, even if you leave the pool area to go inside for a few minutes. The fence should have a self-closing, self-locking gate.
  • Keep doors to the pool securely closed. Many dogs and cats can nose open doors, so make sure there is no gap between the door jam or sliding glass door runner and the door itself.
  • Purchase a floating pool alarm device. These float in your pool and go off if the surface of the pool is disturbed. You should have it designed so the alarm sounds both outside and inside your home. Infrared beams can also alert you to danger.

    For your health and the health of your pet, make sure your pool’s chemical balance is correct. As any pool owner knows, it takes very little to throw your pool out of balance; your pet can get sick if he drinks or is exposed to the green algae that inevitably invades your pool now and again.

  • A Note About Beach Safety

    If you take your dog to the beach, watch for signs of overheating and sun exposure carefully; the sand gets very hot, the sun is more intense and dogs perspire through the pads on their feet.

    During summer the water warms up as well, spurring the growth of “sea lice,” which are microscopic organisms that can cause severe itching. Warnings are usually posted when lice are present in great numbers. However, after swimming in the ocean, you and your dog should rinse thoroughly with fresh water immediately. If you see red bumps and your dog is scratching furiously, take him to a veterinarian for treatment.

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