The Importance of Pet Water Safety During the Summer Months

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pet water safety

Many pets love the water and enjoy swimming, boating, canoeing, kayaking, and much more. However, there are some important pet water hazards that are critical in understanding to protect your dog’s safety.

5 Pet Water Safety Dangers

There are several dangers associated with pets in the water that include drowning, poor water quality, toxins in the water, exposure to other animals in the water, and possible trauma from things in the water or on the beach that may not be visible.

1. Drowning that ends in death can occur or a syndrome known as near-drowning. Drowning can occur when a dog falls through the ice and can’t get out, dogs that can’t swim, dogs that fall out of boats, dogs in pools that can’t leverage themselves out, dogs that accidentally fall into ponds or bodies of water, or dogs that are swept away by currents in streams or the ocean. Freak accidents can also happen around toilets, sinks, bathtubs and water dishes.

The hazard is different depending on if the water is clean, dirty, contaminated, infected, or even if the water is fresh or saltwater. Near-drowning events in saltwater occur in the ocean while freshwater near-drowning events can occur in lakes, ponds, swimming pools, as well as water sources in the home.

Near drowning is associated with water inhalation that can result in cessation of breathing. When water gets into the airway, damage to the lungs occurs resulting in the collapse of the airways (atelectasis) and pulmonary edema. In addition, the larynx can spasm and close the airway. Breathing can stop and death ensues.

The pets most commonly affected by drowning are those that are young, old, or debilitated. Even normal healthy pets can lose their strength quickly or be unable to swim. Learn more about Near Drowning in Dogs.

2. Unhealthy water quality is common in dirty pools but more common in lakes and ponds. Some stagnant bodies of water can overgrow with molds or algae. A medical problem called blue-green algae toxicity can occur from the ingestion of the water that can happen during swimming.  Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, grow and forms “blooms” that float and give the water a pea soup type color during the summer months. Some strains of the bacteria produce toxins that cause liver disease and neurologic symptoms.

  • Symptoms of blue-green algae toxicity causing liver damage in dogs includes vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the stool, weakness, lethargy, seizures, jaundice, coma and death.
  • Signs of blue-green algae toxicity that affects the nervous system includes drooling, muscle tremors, seizures, and paralysis.

There is no treatment for blue-green algae toxicity. Veterinary care is critical.

3. Toxins in the water from fertilizers, bug killers, weed killers, and pesticides can seep into the water table from products spread on farm fields that run off into lakes, streams, creeks, ponds, and rivers. Signs of toxicity will depend on the underlying chemicals used. Dogs can ingest this water or lick the water off their paws causing anything from vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, liver failure, or neurological symptoms.

4. Animals or parasites in the water can cause problems in dogs. Dogs can be exposed to snakes, alligators, crocodiles, sea lice, jellyfish, toxic frogs, or infected protozoan parasites such as Giardia that can lead to wounds, trauma, or infections.

5. Trauma from things in the water or under the water that is not visible or on the beach are common pet water safety hazards. Underwater trash such as boards with nails from debris or broken docks can be underwater and cause lacerations or punctures. Washed up bottles, glass, and/or metal can easily cut paws in the water or on the beach.

Pet Water Safety Tips

Below are tips to help keep your dog safe when in or around the water.

  • The absolute best way to protect your dog is to ensure your dog is supervised the entire time he or she is in the water.
  • Fit your dog with a life vest. They make different styles of life vests for every shape and size of dog. If you place a life vest on your dog, stay with your dog so he or she is supervised just in case he or she gets caught on something.  Learn more about Swimming With Dogs Can Be Fun If You Are Being Safe.
  • Protect your pet from the swimming pool when unsupervised. This can mean fencing in your pool and blocking doors to keep your dog away from the pool.
  • Provide a pool exit for your dog and make sure your dog knows how to use it. The best way to keep your dog safe around the pool is to not allow access when you are not around. But just in case someone keeps the door open and your dog does access the pool and falls in, it is critical to ensure your dog can get out. A pool ladder or ramp made for dogs should be placed in any pool home with dogs.
  • Check the water temperature and ensure it is neither too hot nor too cold for your dog.
  • If your dog 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 bacteria or toxins.
  • Prevent your dog from drinking pool, pond, lake, or ocean water. Why You Should Keep Your Dog From Drinking Too Much Water.
  • Keep a life vest on your dog when boating. Ensure you have a dog-safe ramp to help your dog get out of the water if he jumps in and swims or falls in. Some dogs will excitedly jump in if they see a duck or something else in the water. Learn more about How to Ensure Safety When Boating With Dogs.
  • Keep your dog away from fishing bait and poles. Some dogs will step on or eat the bait which results in a hook in the paw or swallowing the hook. This can be a big problem. Learn more about How to Remove a Fishhook in Your Dog.
  • Dry your dog’s ears after swimming to prevent infections.
  • One option to provide your dog with safe access to water is to create a pool just for your dog. Learn how in this article: Keep Your Dog Cool With a Doggy Pool This Summer.
  • We hope these tips help you know more about pet water safety.

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