How to keep your dog safe around water this summer
Many dogs are excellent swimmers, but most dogs don’t have a good understanding of what makes water safe to swim in. Whether your dog is a total river rat or is a bit more apprehensive about water, it’s important to know how to keep your dog safe around water this summer. Drowning, water intoxication, and even diseases can all make the waterfront dangerous for your dog.
It’s best to keep your dog safe by using your head to assess if a body of water is safe enough to swim. At beaches with riptides or rivers with rapids downstream, I will use a long line to tie my dog to a tree so that he can wade safely but won’t get pulled into a dangerous spot. In some cases I will prevent him from swimming entirely.
Many people think first of drowning when considering how to keep their dogs safe around water. Using a lifejacket is an excellent first line of defense. A good lifejacket will keep your dog afloat while also keeping your dog a bit warmer and offering you a handle to haul them to safety as needed. Of course, it’s also important to remember that even the best lifejacket isn’t enough to make some bodies of water safe for your dog. Any intensely turbulent water, like the ocean or a river, can still drown your dog even with the best lifejacket in the world. It’s important to supervise and make decisions based on the conditions at hand as well as your dog’s fitness, energy level, and overall confidence. There are plenty of conditions that I allow my 7-year-old dog to swim in that I do not consider safe for my 7-month-old puppy.
Drowning isn’t the only potential risk our dogs face at the beach this summer. Many dogs love chasing waves, biting and snapping at the water in a never-ending game. However, this can lead to your dog ingesting enough water to suffer from water intoxication. Drinking too much water while swimming, playing fetch, or chasing waves can lead to a dangerous drop in electrolytes and swelling in your dog’s brain. This can be deadly. Water intoxication can progress very quickly and requires immediate attention from your vet. Symptoms of water intoxication include loss of coordination, vomiting, lethargy, bloating, and more. As your dog’s condition worsens, you may see seizures or loss of consciousness. You can prevent water intoxication by supervising your dog around water and interrupting them for snacks and bathroom breaks if you notice they may be ingesting water. It’s important to remember that your dog might be ingesting water even if they’re not intentionally drinking. In fact, that’s when your dog may be at highest risk for water intoxication because the water they’re drinking is accidental and therefore not limited by thirst levels.
Your dog can also pick up all sorts of pathogens from drinking untreated water. Giardia, leptospirosis, and other diseases are quite common in water. In urban areas, you may also be concerned about pesticides, heavy metals, or other dangerous contaminants. If you’re unsure of the safety of the water, it’s best to provide your dog with plenty of clean water to tempt them instead. I will use coconut water or water flavored with a bit of bouillon to help convince my dogs to drink the clean water I have rather than the riskier water. To be honest, in most cases I simply let my dogs drink the water. However, if I know that the water is particularly high risk, I am careful to keep them on leash and offer them plenty of purified water instead!
Water safety isn’t just about preventing drowning. With all outdoor recreation pursuits, it’s important to understand the potential risks of a given area and take measures to prevent mishaps. Knowing the water conditions, water quality, and your dog’s habits are all key to keeping your dog safe!
Written by Kayla Fratt