Pets and Water Safety: Do's and Don'ts

By Dini McGregor, DVM, Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital

Swimming is a fun activity for a lot of dogs, and it can be a great way to spend time with your dog. But it’s important to keep some safety tips in mind.

Some dogs are naturally built for water, and others are not. It is up to us as owners to recognize who our companions are.

In general, Labradors and the retriever breeds are better swimmers and are more naturally “built” for water. They have hair coats that tend to repel water initially, and their bodies are somewhat balanced for flotation.

Huskies, malamutes and the northern breeds also are quite resistant to cold water because of an extra layer of fat and a double-hair coat that keeps their bodies insulated and dry next to their skin.

Some of the smaller breed dogs can swim as well, while others are just not “built” to be swimmers.

If your dog has any illness, swimming is not a good idea. If she has any immune deficiencies, lakes and rivers are the last places she should be, as many infectious agents can be transmitted in water. Dogs with diarrhea can transmit Giardia and other pathogens via water as well.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • DON’T assume your dog can swim just because he is a dog. Keep in mind your dog’s personality. As much as we might want our four-legged friends to be swimmers, sometimes they just don’t like the water.
  • DO take it slow. Small dogs especially should be held in the water with you and slowly allowed to move out away from you to swim. If he panics, starts to sink or is unable to swim well, it is probably not worth “making” him swim.
  • DON’T forget the life jacket. If your dog is going on a boat or is around the water a lot and is not a natural swimmer, a life jacket is an invaluable investment. There are great life jackets for dogs of all sizes now.
  • DO be mindful of water currents, abilities of your dog and your surroundings. If there is a lot of garbage or debris around, it may be best to move to another site. Sharp rocks can cause cut paws and broken toes, as well as sore feet.
  • DO rinse your dog off with clean water after a swim. Putting a good drying/cleansing agent in your dog’s ears is also a good idea to prevent ear infections.
  • DON’T ever let your dog go swimming in strong currents. Even strong-swimming Labs can get into trouble quickly.
  • DO review canine CPR procedures and be familiar with giving mouth-to-nose resuscitation if you take your dog swimming, especially on a regular basis.

Located in Snohomish, PVH offers comprehensive and 24/7 emergency veterinary care. For appointments and more information , please contact us at 360.568.3113.

Article added 7.21.15