Swimming is an excellent way to beat the summer heat and bond with your pet. Dogs, guinea pigs, and even some cats may enjoy taking a dip with you. However, before you head to the waters, we want to make sure you are well informed about water safety when it comes to swimming with your pet this summer.
Getting Used to Water
Training your furry friend from a young age will help them to learn to enjoy the water. The bathtub or sink is the perfect starting point. Fill it with only a few inches and sit with your pet in the water. Allow them to get used to the water before splashing them so they don’t get overwhelmed. Yes–even with cats, begin with gradual experiences followed by plenty of treats for encouragement.
Take it slow, allowing your pet to show you signs of confidence. If your pet is comfortable with a few inches, continue to add more until your pet is comfortable with paddling or floating in the tub.
It is important to remember that though we assume all dogs can swim, for some it may be more of a survival “sink or swim” reaction than a fun activity. Your pet may need time to adapt to being in the water.
Even once your pet is confident in the water, we recommend using a life vest or jacket to give your pet extra security. This can also help your pet stay afloat and keep them from tiring out as fast. Buy a vest that has a handle on the back in case you need to quickly remove your pet from the water.
Always keep your eyes on your pet around water, and never leave them unattended. Even if you are poolside, it can be easy for your pet to fall in and become disoriented or overwhelmed in the water. Consider using a safety cover for your pool when it is not in use. Keep them at your side at all times when at the beach, lake, stream, or other natural bodies of water.
Watch Out for Hazards
It is important to check the water before letting your pet rush in for a dip.
If you are at the beach, be mindful of strong waves and currents but also consider any objects under the water or on land that may injure your pet. Popular fishing areas could have hooks and wires, and broken shells or debris can also wound your pet while at the beach, so look carefully.
Lakes, ponds, and streams can be inviting too, but look out for blue-green algae, known as cyanobacteria. Not all blue-green algae blooms are poisonous so it is important to be cautious and check for signage when possible. If swallowed in even small amounts, your pet may suffer from impaired balance, difficulty breathing, drooling, tremors, liver failure, shock, and seizures as well as gastrointestinal problems. If you think your pet has been exposed, rinse their mouth and contact your vet right away.
If you want your pet to join you in the pool, be sure to maintain your chemicals as some can be toxic and harm your pet if not in the right balance.
Provide Fresh Water and Shade
Though you’ll be spending time in the water, it is still important to provide fresh potable water to your pet frequently. Drinking too much saltwater or chlorinated water can create an upset stomach, dehydration, and vomiting.
The water may be cool but be sure to pick a spot in the shade for you and your pet to relax in to prevent them from overheating or sunburn.
Rinse and Dry
Once you are done swimming with your pet, be sure to rinse their coat thoroughly with fresh water to wash off any sand, salt, or chemicals that may be still on your pet’s coat. Use a soothing shampoo if you are able for sensitive skin and brush out their coat. Make sure their ears are dry to prevent infections. We also recommend checking their paws for any signs of injury.
With these tips in mind, you and your pet can enjoy spending time in the water together this summer. Always talk to your vet before taking on the task of swim lessons with your pet. Remember to only use bug repellents and sunscreens that are made for pets and approved by your veterinarian. For more information on swimming with your pet or to schedule a consultation, contact Veterinary Sports Rehab & Integrative Wellness today.