Swimming Safety Tips for Your Dog

Swimming is a great way to exercise your dog. It’s fun, it’s low impact and it’s a nice way to stay cool on those really hot days. But like everything else that’s fun in this world there are a few dangers to watch out for. If you’re going to take your dog swimming, there’s a few things to keep in mind.

1. Don’t Assume All Dogs Can Swim

Not all dogs can swim! Some dogs take to the water like naturals, but others don’t have the physical capacity to swim effectively (they sink like a rock). Much of your dog’s ability to swim depends on his body shape. Big chested breeds with short legs, such as the Bulldog, are known to have a hard time staying afloat. And those with flat faces, such as the Pug, are prone to breathing problems that leave them easily fatigued. And very small dogs, such as Chihuahuas, can get overwhelmed by big waves or strong currents.  Life jackets are so important as emergency situations can happen when you least expect it.

2. Teaching Your Dog to Swim… take it slow and easy!

Not all dogs are going to jump right in, many will need some convincing that it’s not such a scary thing after all.  Again…take it slow and easy!  Here’s a hint!                                                                        1.  Encourage your dog to follow you into shallow water.                                                                        2.  Praise him as he follows you in and keep encouraging him to follow you around.                  Once your dog seems comfortable in shallow water you can try coaxing him out a little further with one of his favorite toys. Keep up the praise as he follows you around to show him that there’s nothing to be afraid of.  Don’t force them if they’re not ready, let them get in and explore at their own pace. Some dogs will take to it right away, while others will require a few wading sessions before they’re confident enough to venture out and try swimming on their own.

3. Get Your Dog a Life Vest

Very important!  Dogs that are learning how to swim should wear a life jacket for safety. Some dogs that have a hard time staying afloat, or for those that are nervous in the water, a life jacket is recommended at all times to help keep them safe.  I have two wonderful swimmers, but at our lake, the boats go flying by leaving a very large wave behind.  I don’t want to take a chance on losing one in the wake of a boat. There are many breeds that just don’t do well in the water.  Some big chested breeds with short legs will struggle with swimming. A bulldog is a great example.  They have a tendency sink in deep water, so wearing a life jacket helps give them the ability to stay above water.   Dogs that are nervous in the water have a higher risk of becoming fatigued. When dogs panic their respiration and ability to swim become compromised, which increases the likelihood of drowning. Wearing a life jacket can help keep them safe.

Dogs, even experienced swimmers, may become overwhelmed by strong currents or waves. If you’re going to take your dog to the beach when the waters are rough get them a life jacket for their own safety.

If you are worried about getting the right size, bring them by GoodDog and we will help get a good fit for your pet.

4. Don’t Let Your Dog Drink from Lakes or Ponds

Whenever you take your dog swimming be sure to bring plenty of fresh water to keep them hydrated. Lakes, ponds, swamps and rivers are full of organisms that can be harmful to your dog. In mild cases these organisms can lead to diarrhea, but in severe cases such as Leptospira, they can be fatal.  In addition to bacteria many lakes and rivers are treated with pesticides that can poison your dog. Older dogs, puppies and those with compromised immune systems are more susceptible, but any dog should be discouraged from drinking from outdoor water sources.

5. Don’t Let Your Dog Drink from the Ocean

Drinking from the ocean can make your dog extremely sick. Saltwater has an osmotic effect, pulling liquid into your dog’s intestines. This can cause diarrhea and vomiting, both of which can lead to dehydration.  Unlike normal diarrhea, beach diarrhea is severe and comes on fast, and it causes dogs to dehydrate quickly. If dogs ingest enough saltwater, they can suffer serious kidney damage which can be fatal.

Whenever going to a lake or the ocean, bring along plenty of fresh water when you take your dog! Keep a close eye on your dog and call them over if you see them start to drink from the lake or ocean.

6. Watch Out for Advisories & Beach Closures

Many public beaches are monitored for bacteria, and when those levels get too high health departments close beaches. Most beach closures are due to E. coli, which is used as an indicator that there’s likely other harmful pathogens present in the water.  If you’re going to the beach with your dog be sure to check for postings at the entrance regarding any current advisories. You can also check online before you head out.

To find out if any beaches near you are affected you can google “your state + beach closures” or use the EPA’s beach advisory map.

7. Watch Your Dog for Signs of Illness

There are a few parasites that can transmit waterborne illnesses to our dogs, and they’re impossible to spot with the naked eye.

Dogs can contract giardia after swimming.  Diarrhea come on so quickly and severely. Luckily that’s one of the ‘easier’ illnesses to treat, and a trip to the vet can help them get back to normal very soon.

After taking your dog swimming watch for symptoms of illness including diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, decrease in appetite and fever. If your dog shows any signs of illness take your dog to the vet for the correct diagnosis and treatment. Some waterborne illnesses are fatal if left untreated.

8. Watch Out for Blue-Green Algae

Blue-Green algae, also called cyanobacteria, is most commonly found in calm waters such freshwater ponds and lakes. The toxins it creates are dangerous to humans, livestock and pets.  For dogs, exposure or ingestion of water contaminated by blue-green algae is often fatal. A lot of it ends up washing up onto the shore, creating even higher levels of concentration. If you see any suspicious looking algae keep your dog away from the water itself and the shoreline.

The bacteria is not easy to spot unless it has clumped together. It can appear as green or brown flakes.  When fully bloomed it often appears as a blue-green film sitting on top of the water.


9. Wash Your Dog After Swimming

Wash your dog after a swim to help get rid of any bacteria that’s collected on their fur. If your dog isn’t cleaned off after coming out of the lake or ocean, they may ingest nasty stuff they may have picked up when they groom themselves.  Bathing will also help get rid of any chemicals that may have build up on his fur, and it will help alleviate any itchiness caused by sand or debris.

Chronic ear infections can be an issue for dogs that swim regularly. Pay close attention to your dog’s ears, making sure they’re clean and thoroughly dried after a swim. If you notice any changes in your dog’s ears, or if they develop a foul odor, schedule a vet visit for diagnoses & treatment.

Have Fun & Be Safe This Summer

Go out and have some fun adventures with your dog this summer. Take them to the beach or your local dog-friendly pool. Swimming is great exercise for dogs, and it’s the perfect way to keep cool on those hot summer days. Just keep these tips in mind to help keep them safe.