Water Safety for Dogs

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Water Safety for Dogs


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7/9/2012 ~ by Kristen Parker, DVM - Wayside Animal Hospital

It’s been a hot summer so far. What better way to cool off than to spend some time in the water? While heat stroke is a major risk for dogs, and playing in and drinking water is a great way to cool off, there are some risks to be aware of. These risks include drowning, ingestions of parasites or toxins, fishing hazards, and even burns.

Be careful when swimming! Not every dog naturally knows how to “doggie paddle.” Even a dog that does know how to swim can be in danger around a swimming pool. A dog can jump in or fall in but may not know how to climb back out. The same safety precautions that are taken with a child should be taken with a dog. Dogs should not be allowed near a pool without supervision. Dogs are in danger of drowning at the lake too. It is easier to get out, but even an excellent swimmer can swim out too far and become too tired to swim back to shore. Swimming in a river or at the beach also has the added danger of currents or tides. For maximum safety, especially when boating, put a canine life jacket on your dog.

Be careful what your dog drinks! Water can harbor dangerous bacteria, parasites, algae, or chemicals. Here are some examples:
• Giardia is a parasite that causes severe diarrhea and excessive gas. It can also cause vomiting.
• Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that causes liver and kidney disease and can be deadly. It can be spread through contaminated water. There is a vaccine for leptospirosis. Make sure your dog is up to date.
• Blue-green algae is extremely dangerous and deadly if ingested. It is usually found on the downwind side of a stagnant body of water (such as a pond, bog, or small lake) in the late summer or early fall.
• Drinking excessive salt water or water from a swimming pool with chlorine and other chemicals can make your dog sick. Vomiting and diarrhea may occur somewhat quickly and cause some embarrassment (Ever read ‘Marley and Me?’).

A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t drink it, your dog probably shouldn’t either. How do you keep a dog from drinking? If you suspect the water is dangerous, it is best not to let your dog swim or play in it. If you are at the beach or the pool and your dog is drinking the water, call him/her out of the water and provide fresh, clean water. If that doesn’t stop him/her, it’s time to go home.

Be careful when fishing! Dogs love scented or flavored fish bait, or maybe they are just curious about shiny fishing lures. Either way, we see a least a few cases of fish hook ingestion each year. Most of the dogs we see have the fish hook stuck in a lip. Never try to pull the hook back out. The barb will dig into the skin and cause a lot of pain, and your dog may bite under such circumstances. It is best to let your veterinarian remove the hook. This may require some sedation and pain medication to avoid unnecessary stress and pain to the dog. Some dogs will swallow the hook, which is very serious. The hook can become stuck in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines. If the fishing line is still hanging out of the mouth, don’t pull on it! This will cause more damage and more pain. Trim the line short enough that it won’t get caught on anything and take your dog to your veterinarian ASAP.

Be careful with hot water! Once your dog has been to the lake and is covered in red clay, sand, mud, or all three, it’s probably bath time. In order to avoid tracking all of this in the house, you may opt to do this outside with the water hose. If the hose has been lying in the sun all day, the first water that comes out can be very hot. Be sure to let the water run until it is cool to avoid any burns or discomfort to your pet.

While it isn’t a water hazard specifically, sunburn is a big concern with humans when they are out swimming. Dogs can sunburn too, and dogs can also get skin cancer. If you dog has thin hair or is a light color, there is higher risk. A dog that has recently been shaved is also at risk. Apply a sunscreen to avoid this problem. Since your dog will probably lick, a sunscreen for babies (who also tend to ingest it) is best. The areas that tend to burn most often are the ears and the nose where the hair is very thin or short.

I hope you will enjoy some quality time with your favorite dog(s) this summer while being careful to avoid any water hazards. If your dog loves to swim, it is great exercise and great fun!



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