Keeping your dog safe around rivers and ponds

It is not true that all dogs can swim, and, even if your dog is a good swimmer, you still need to be vigilant while your pet is in or around water.

Your dog is affected by the cold

Dog swimmingBritish weather means environmental water is always cold even in the summer and the coldness causes the body to constrict blood vessels in the superficial tissues and muscles. Not only can this be unpleasant for your dog, but it can cause cramp. An unfit dog may run into difficulties and, in extreme circumstances, drown. Muddy, slippery banks for dogs to scramble up and down can exacerbate injury or weakness or indeed create damage to your pet. Snowy weather is great fun, but be extra careful around water in the winter. Winter weather makes water even more dangerous, and ice can cause extra hazards. Do not let your pet venture onto ice, no matter how thick it looks. The animal can fall through and then, if caught in a current or by panicking can get caught under the ice. The gasp reflex on entering the freezing water will make the dog draw in breath and if the dog’s mouth is near the water it may gulp water into its lungs and drown. The freezing conditions will also bring on hypothermia very quickly. Jagged ice can also injure a struggling dog. Puppies are particularly vulnerable to cold as their coat is still ‘summer weight’; do not let them near water in winter.

Your dog cannot cope with strong currents

Do not let your dog swim anywhere where there are strong currents or tidal movements, observe warnings about such things at the beach and in rivers – including near weirs. Also be aware of how dangerous fast flowing rivers in full flood are.

Even the strongest canine swimmer cannot fight strong tides, undertow currents and a swollen river in full spate, and will soon be in danger of becoming exhausted and drowning.

Your dog panics

If your dog suddenly encounters a wave, has a reflex gasp from falling into cold water or if something else makes it take in water instead of air, it may panic and this could lead it to drown very quickly, as it gulps in more water as it struggles.

Your dog becomes exhausted

Just be aware that your single minded chum, keen to get that thrown stick whatever it takes, may just take on too much and not be able to swim the distance it needs to. Watch your dog when playing with it near water.

Give it chance to rest and do not tempt it to swim when it is exhausted. If you are lucky enough to have a pool at home, or be visiting a place with your dog where there is a pool, show your dog the way out of the pool (steps, a slope etc – it is unlikely that most dogs could cope with a pool ladder) and be watchful when the dog is in or near the water.

If in doubt, put the dog’s life vest on. As your dog ages be aware if it is slowing up. It may age in such a way between one summer and the next that it is not able to still do a rigorous swimming game that it could do last year.

Your water loving older or impaired dog may enjoy splashing and wading in a child’s paddling pool, or chasing around the shallow pools on the beach where it will meet none of the dangers of a large body of water.

What if your dog is not a naturally keen swimmer?

If your dog is not a natural swimmer, you may want to teach it to swim. Do not force this upon your dog, they may not be able to grasp the concept of swimming. Even a dog that is of a breed that is known for its love of swimming may have difficulties.

If your dog refuses to learn how to swim, and you know that you will be in situations where it is in close contact with water, such as boating or walking close to rivers or pools, or anywhere else where the dog might accidentally slip in, it would be wise to consider fitting your dog with a floatation life vest that will keep your it afloat if it happens to accidentally end up in the water.

Be aware of the kind of water your dog is swimming in

Dog swimming 2Be aware of the quality of water that your dog is swimming in and ensure that your dog does not ingest water that is stagnant, polluted or treated – on a golf course for example – or sea water. Be aware too of poisonous algae that is found in some still water, there are often – but not always – signs warning you of the presence of such algae. In addition, around harbours and places where motorised water sport is popular, there may be a fair amount of fuel and oil in the water so avoid letting your dog swim in these areas. Rivers may be high in nitrates from agricultural fertilisers even if they appear to be in the ‘unpolluted’ countryside. If your pet seems in any way unwell after swimming, take it to a vet, and advise the vet where the dog has been swimming.


After your dog has swum

Always take fresh water with you when your dog is doing any kind of exercise; swimming is rigorous exercise and you need to have plenty of the ‘right sort’ of water at hand for your dog to drink and also, if necessary, to rinse the animal off with. If your dog likes to swim in a chlorinated pool, watch for the effects of chlorine, particularly on its eyes and rinse your dog afterwards to stop irritation and drying to the skin. When your dog has had a swim, clean and dry its ears carefully to prevent ear infection. You should bathe a dog that has been in the sea so that the salt and sand do not aggravate its skin.

Please – be sensible and responsible

Avoid walking on seaside promenades, sea walls, piers, beaches close to the surf etc in very rough weather. Keep your dog on a lead near frozen water and also to keep well away from the edges of a swollen fast flowing river, with your dog firmly on the lead. Put a life vest on your dog when on boats or near water with it, and generally be aware of potential problems if you can. Remember if the worst should happen and your dog is in trouble in deep, fast flowing or very cold water, that you are finally more important than your pet. Keep safe, no matter how desperate you are to enter the water. Do not become a victim yourself and in so doing endanger others who will then have to rescue you.

(Article source: Pet Owners Association)

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