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Pets and Water Safety
By Heidi Licata, DVM
Summer is a time for all of us, including our furry family members, to enjoy some fun in the sun. Pool parties, days at the beach and boating are activities that your dog and maybe even a courageous cat can enjoy. Here are some water safety basics you should know in order to safely enjoy the water with your pet.
When it comes to swimming, not all of our canine friends are created equal! Some dogs, such as retrievers, appear to be natural born swimmers and typically require very little encouragement or teaching in order to safely enjoy a dip in the pool, lake, pond or ocean. Other breeds of dogs, however, especially small dogs, may need some extra help from their owners to learn how to swim and to safely enjoy time in the water.
Until you are confident in your dog’s swimming ability, it is crucial for you to take steps that will allow you to quickly intervene and lend a helping hand to your pup if he is in trouble. Keep a leash and a harness on your dog at all times during your first few water adventures. By having a leash in hand you will be able to quickly pull your dog to safety if he begins to panic or become tired from paddling. Additional protective equipment such as life vests should be used for small dogs and all dogs without a natural ability to swim.
Life vests come in all shapes and sizes for dogs. Life vests can also be found for the boat loving cat. Life vests should be used at all times if your dog has trouble staying afloat in shallow water, if your dog is swimming in deep or choppy water and for all pets that enjoy time out on the boat. Life vests should be purchased from a reputable company. They should fit your pet appropriately and be brightly colored for easy visibility.
Never allow your pet to have unsupervised access to bodies of water, including pools. Even the most skilled canine swimmer could become tired from paddling or tangled in pool covers or weeds, potentially resulting in drowning.
Provide frequent periods of rest for your water-loving pooch. Although swimming is an excellent form of exercise for dogs, it is important to protect your dog from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Be sure your dog takes frequent rest breaks in a shady area. Provide your pet with plenty of cool fresh drinking water. Do not allow brachycephalic breeds (such as pugs and bulldogs) to participate in vigorous outdoor activity on hot days as they can easily overheat to a life threatening level.
After a fun filled day of water activities it is important to remember to rinse your dog’s coat with clean water. Chlorine, salt and algae left on the coat can lead to skin irritation and infection. If your dog is a frequent swimmer, ask your veterinarian to recommend a shampoo to help keep her coat and skin healthy.
Keep these basic tips in mind and your pet can enjoy all the benefits of water activities while staying safe and happy!
Dr. Heidi Aguiar Licata is the director of East River Veterinary Hospital, where she has been since August 2011. She joined the Monroe Veterinary Associates family in December 2007. A native of Fall River, MA, Dr. Licata attended the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and received her Bachelor's Degree in Biology in 1999. She continued her veterinary education at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine and was awarded her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 2003. Acupuncture and exotic animal medicine are just a few of Dr. Licata's many professional interests. She completed the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society course in 2006 and is a certified veterinary acupuncturist.