Take the same care with your pets that you would with small children near water, as the dangers are similar
These tips are geared towards canine care, but could be used with those special felines that are offered closely supervised exposure to the outdoors, as we do not encourage allowing cats to roam freely.
Before swimming with your dog, check with your veterinarian first if they are seniors, overweight, or just normally sedentary.
Always keep plenty of fresh water handy to combat dehydration and to keep your dog from drinking chemically treated pool water. Prevent your dog from drinking lake or river water, also, which may contain algae or parasites that cause vomiting, diarrhea, even death. IMPORTANT: ingesting blue-green algae kills dogs!
Also, be very aware of proximity to dangerous reptiles such as alligators and water moccasins (poisonous snakes), if you live in those regions.
Using positive training methods, teach your dog to safely enter and exit the water at the proper locations, and help with their swimming form if necessary – contrary to popular belief, not all dogs will pick up on the “dog paddle” right away. NEVER throw your dog into the water.
Don’t let your dog overdo it and don’t leave them unattended; swimming is very hard work and he may tire quickly, compromising their ability to exit the water safely.
Watch for sunburn on sensitive noses and ears. Bring sunscreen made especially for dogs. Also prevent paws from getting burned on hot surfaces.
Buy your dog a life jacket and use it religiously, if you take your dog boating. Don’t assume your pet will automatically take to boating, and be sure to introduce them slowly to the pastime just as you would any other new adventure – they may not like being on unsure footing, the noise of the engines, and/or may get motion sickness. Be sure and secure any hazardous items for your pet’s reach – fishing hooks, flammable materials, etc. Also, on hot days, leave your dog at home if your boat has no shade, to prevent heat exhaustion; remember, dogs can’t perspire and prolonged sun exposure can can make your dog very sick or even die.
If your dog gets into trouble in the water, try using a life jacket attached to a rope, as dogs can panic easily in the water, and a frantic, flailing dog can accidentally drown any person trying to assist. Keep one of these handy at all times. Try to snare your dog with the life jacket first, and reel them in to safety, before jumping in the water. If that does not work, buckle into your own life jacket, before jumping in.
Be sure to rinse your dog off after swimming to remove chlorine or salt from a pool, or bacteria and dirt picked up from a pond or lake. Be sure to remove wet collars and life vests to prevent hot spots.
Swimming Pools have Special Risks
Pool covers look solid to dogs. Even accomplished canine swimmers have drowned following an unexpected tumble into a covered pool. The pool cover can be disorienting making it difficult or impossible for a dog to find his way out.
Dogs have poor depth perception, so if the pool has steps, mark them with a large object or furniture that will not be moved around (a large potted plant, for example) and be sure he associates the plant as the exit marker. If there are no steps, provide a non-slip ramp for getting out and train him or her to use it, and how to find it.
Make sure you have created a shaded area for your dog, keeping them from too much heat exposure, and protect their paws from hot surfaces.
Invest in a fence around your pool to prevent escapes or intruders from causing problems.
Also, if you are traveling and leaving a pet to stay with friends or family that have a pool or water feature on their property, be sure and exercise same pool safety training you would at your own home, and educate their “sitter” on how to keep your pet safe while on their property.