When the weather warms up, many people and puppies love to get in the water to cool off.
Whether a dog enjoys swimming or just splashing around in shallow water, there are several things to keep in mind to ensure they stay safe this summer.
Although it’s commonly believed that all dogs can swim, it’s actually a myth, according to Dr. Lori Teller, associate clinical professor at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
“Most dogs make a paddling motion when in the water, but some aren’t able to propel themselves forward or even keep their heads above water,” she said. declared.
In particular, brachycephalic dogs with large heads and flat faces, such as pugs and bulldogs, tend to have the most difficulty swimming.
“If your dog isn’t interested in swimming, don’t force it,” Teller said. “Never throw your dog in the pool to swim. For dogs that want to get in the pool but can’t swim, or if you have a dog at risk of drowning, use a dog life jacket. If your dog falls or cannot swim, this will allow your dog to float in the pool until they can be rescued.
Dogs that like to swim should be given a bowl of fresh water to drink, although the small amount of chlorine in swimming pools is usually not strong enough to cause harm. However, chlorine tablets and undiluted chemicals can cause serious danger and should be kept out of reach.
Lakes and rivers can also be a fun swimming spot, as long as owners are careful to avoid areas with cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae.
“These algae most often flourish in still, shallow, warm water and produce toxic substances,” Teller said. “It only takes a very small amount of toxin to cause serious illness or death in a dog.”
The toxins cause a range of symptoms, including bluish mucous membranes (gums and inside the nose), vomiting, muscle stiffness, seizures and liver failure. Because the effects are so severe, many state agencies have monitoring programs for public recreational water places and post blue-green algae announcements on their websites.
Some dogs that aren’t interested in swimming in pools or lakes can still enjoy the beach and run around in the surf, but salt water can bring its own set of problems.
“If your dog ingests a small amount of seawater while playing, he may develop a little diarrhea, but otherwise it’s fine,” Teller said. “However, if your dog ingests large amounts of seawater, it can potentially be fatal. The increased salt level can disrupt the functioning of several organs and lead to seizures and kidney problems.
Therefore, it is important that owners always provide fresh water at the beach and seek emergency veterinary care if a dog begins to vomit or exhibit abnormal behavior after drinking seawater.
“After swimming, whether in a pool, river, lake, or ocean, rinse your dog with clean water to remove chlorine, other chemicals, and any debris,” Teller says. “Dry your dog well, especially skin folds and ears, to avoid inflammation or infection. If your dog gets ear infections after swimming, ask your vet about a medicated cleanser that can help prevent problems.
Teller reminds owners to be careful when bathing or rinsing dogs with a hose during the summer.
“Make sure you run the water through the hose for a few minutes before getting your dog wet,” she said. “Water left in the hose between uses becomes extremely hot and if it comes into contact with your dog’s skin it can cause second or third degree burns. These are extremely painful, require care intensive veterinarians and can lead to permanent scarring.
Finally, for every dog that loves swimming, there’s another that doesn’t.
“Dogs that don’t like to swim may still enjoy hanging out at the water’s edge, sharing a float with their owner, cooling off in a kiddie pool, or playing with kids on a slide,” Teller said.
Owners can also help their dogs enjoy summer by taking walks during the cooler times of the day and making dog-safe popsicles from frozen chicken or beef broth.
Whether a dog loves water or prefers dry land, there are plenty of ways to stay cool while having fun in the sun. This summer is the perfect time to discover new activities that will appeal to the whole family, including dogs.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. The stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics can be directed to [email protected]