Splashing in the water may be your dog’s favorite warm weather activity, but it’s always best to keep summer pet safety in mind and avoid water-related hazards.
Here are five hazards to keep in mind when hitting the beach this summer.
Five Pet Water Safety Dangers
1. Drowning. When left unattended, an animal who isn’t naturally amphibious is at high risk for drowning or inhaling water. Falling out of a boat is a high risk for drowning, and can result in getting caught in the current or dragged through unclean water.
Inhaling water, also known as near-drowning, is when water gets into an animal’s airway, damaging the lungs and potentially causing collapse of the airways (atelectasis) and pulmonary edema. In addition, the larynx can spasm and close the airway.
The pets most commonly affected by drowning or near-drowning are those that are young, old or have severe injuries. However, even healthy pets can lose their strength quickly or struggle to swim.
2. Unhealthy water quality. Poor water quality is most frequently found in lakes and ponds, as stagnant bodies of water can overgrow with mold and algae.
A medical problem called blue-green algae toxicity can occur if your dog accidentally ingests water while swimming. Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, grows and forms “blooms” that float and give the water a pea soup color during the summer months.
Some strains of the bacteria produce toxins that cause liver disease and neurologic symptoms.
- Signs that your dog may have liver damage from ingesting blue-green algae can include vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the stool, weakness, lethargy, and seizures.
- Signs that your dog may have a neurological issue from blue-green algae toxicity include drooling, muscle tremors, and paralysis.
3. Toxins. Polluted water often stems from the use of fertilizers, weed killers, and pesticides. These harmful toxins can seep into the water table from products spread on farm fields that run off into lakes, streams, and rivers. Signs of toxicity will depend on the underlying chemicals used, but often present themselves with vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.
4. Parasites. When swimming in natural bodies of water, pets can be exposed to sea lice, toxic frogs, or infected protozoan parasites such as Giardia, that can lead to wounds, trauma or infections.
5. Trauma. Blunt trauma can occur in the water or under the water from objects not visible above the surface. Trash like boards with nails from broken docks can linger underwater and cause lacerations or punctures. Additionally, washed up bottles, glass, and metal can easily cut paws in the water or on the beach.
Pet Water Safety Tips
Below are some helpful tips to help keep your dog safe when in or around the water:
- The absolute best way to protect your dog is to ensure they are supervised the entire time they swim.
- Dehydration in dogs can occur easily if a supply of fresh drinking water is not available. To prevent this, always carry ample drinking water and a portable bowl. It can also be helpful to carry around emergency dog dehydration treatment as a back-up plan.
- Fit your pet with a life vest. Different styles of life vests are made for every shape and size of animal. If you place a life vest on your dog, supervise them to assure that the vest doesn’t get caught on an object in the water.
- Protect your pet from the swimming pool when unsupervised. This can be done by fencing in your pool and barricading doors.
- Provide a pool exit for your animal and ensure they know how to use it. The best way to keep your pet safe around the pool is to not allow access when you are not present, but if your animal does access the pool and stumbles in, it is critical to ensure that they know how to get out.
- Check the water temperature and ensure that it is neither too hot nor too cold for your animal.
- If your pet swims in ponds, monitor the pond for signs of algae bloom. If you have a pond on your property, consider having the water tested for blue-green algae and toxins.
- Keep your pet away from fishing bait and poles. Some animals will step on or eat bait, which could result in a hook in the paw or swallowing the hook.
- Dry your pet’s ears after swimming to prevent infections.