As we approach the summer months, many of us may consider taking our dogs with us to the beach or letting them cool off in lakes and ponds. Swimming can be great exercise for dogs, but there are a few water safety tips every pet owner should be aware of.
PDSA Vet Nurse Shauna Walsh said, “Before you think about heading out, make sure to check how hot it’s going to be. Even with the opportunity to swim, days out in the sun could put your dog at risk of heatstroke, so consider whether it might be safer to leave them at home.
“Remember that if it is too hot, even getting your dog to the water might be a problem as hot sand or tarmac can burn their paws.
“Once you and your dog are by the water, there are many things to keep in mind to help keep them safe.”
- Make sure they can swim
“First, it’s essential to remember that not every dog is a natural swimmer. Dogs with shorter legs such as Corgis and dogs with flat faces such as Pugs may find swimming hard work. Some dogs won’t enjoy being in the water at all, so don’t force them. Watch out for signs that your dog is getting tired and encourage them back to you to rest.
“If your dog seems keen to enter the water, it is important to make sure they know how to swim first. If there is dog friendly or hydrotherapy pool nearby, they are great, safe places for them to practice swimming and get the hang of things.
“Taking it slowly and splashing in the shallows can help build their confidence before they venture deeper in. Use your arms to support them under their stomach as they get the hang of kicking with all four legs. Encourage them back to shore frequently, so they know where the exit point is and can return to dry land if they feel tired.
- Choosing the right spot
“Picking the right swimming spot is a big step in ensuring your pet’s safety. If swimming in nature, make sure your pet is up to date with their vaccinations, and carefully select the location. Lakes are often calm and have plenty of shallow spots for your dog to rest. Make sure to scan the area for any hazards, such as fallen branches, boats, windsurfers, or fishermen as they could potentially present a danger to your dog. Also be on the lookout for blue-green algae – this grows in stagnant water and is toxic to dogs even in small amounts. Dog friendly beaches can also make perfect spots for a dip – but remember to check the tide times, look out for warning flags, and make sure the waves are small.
“It is important you never let your dog enter the canals as the water is often stagnant, which can be a health hazard as they may catch an infection and there’s increased chance of blue-green algae growth. There are also often dangers under the water and not many places for your pooch to climb out. Fast flowing rivers or flood waters are also unsuitable as the currents can quickly cause your dog to struggle and get into trouble.
- What to do in an emergency
“Never leave your dog unattended around water, even if they are a strong swimmer. If your or someone else’s dog gets in trouble in the water, it’s best to avoid going in after them as this can put you in danger as well. If you can, remain on the shore, calling your dog to give them a target to swim towards. If there is an inflatable ring available, you can throw this into the water to help keep your dog afloat.
On a beach, lifeguards may be able to assist helping your dog to shore, otherwise ring 999 and ask for the coastguard to get help from professionals.
“If a pet becomes unresponsive after swimming or has drowned, it is important to know how to perform CPR to give them the best chance. While you begin CPR, have a second person ring your vet who will be able to offer support.
“If you do not feel confident in performing CPR or dealing with emergency situations with your pets, PDSA has a free pet first aid guide which offers both lifesaving and practical tips.”
For more information on water safety, you can visit https:\\www.pdsa.org.uk\\pet-help-and-advice\\looking-after-your-pet\\puppies-dogs\\water-safety