When the summer months arrive, it’s common for owners to encourage their dogs to play in open water to help them cool down or to get some different types of exercise. Or perhaps your dog doesn’t need any encouragement, and heads straight for the water themselves. Whether this is in the sea, a fresh water lake or a lido, it is important to remember the dangers of open water swimming for dogs. Read on to find out why swimming can be dangerous to dogs, and why you should be cautious when taking your dog near water.
Can all dogs swim?
Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are natural-born swimmers and their ability to swim depends on their body shape. Some love the water and can swim, others can be taught to swim and the rest panic.
Dachshunds and pugs don’t fare well in water as they have short legs but it will be hard to get larger dogs like retrievers and Labradors out once they’ve jumped in as they can swim much more easily.
If your dog is partial to a swim, read on to find out some of the risks associated with this:
Some of the risks of swimming
Ponds and areas of water where there is not a water source coming in are the most hazardous for dogs because of the number of toxins in them including blue green algae – officially known as Cyanobacteria.
These algae are so toxic to dogs that it can actually kill them within hours. When the weather has been very hot and there is poor air circulation, water levels are low which encourages these algae to produce in large quantities in stagnant water.
Dogs can develop poisoning when they lick themselves after they’ve been in contaminated water – or drunk the water.
Stagnant water is especially dangerous for dogs as they can pick up all kinds of parasites and become extremely ill by either ingesting or skin contact. Fertiliser from nearby fields can end up on the surface of the water, which if swallowed, can make your dog very ill.
Strong currents can pose swimming risks for dogs, not only putting them at higher risk of drowning, but they can also be thrown off track, leaving them unsure of where they entered the water.
Water often flows much quicker than it looks and riptides can sweep dogs away so easily – even the strongest of swimmers.
Owners who go into the water to try to retrieve their dogs often end up in trouble themselves and could potentially drown.
Creatures and unusual objects in the water
River rats and pike pose particular threats to dogs as they can bite them and pass on infection. However, more of an immediate threat are items of litter that have been carelessly tossed into water, for example drinks cans or broken bottles.
Other objects like sharp rocks could also be lurking at the bottom of pools, which pose an injury threat to animals.
Becoming tired in the water
If you do decide to let your dog swim in open water, it’s important to check they are not getting out of their depth as they can easily become tired much quicker when they are very old, young, overweight or have a condition such as arthritis.
Remember that you are solely responsible for your dogs’ safety. You shouldn’t let your dog swim in unknown sources of water and you should always wash dogs if they have been swimming outside. Keep a very close eye on your dog at all times, and never let them near water with strong currents, as this could be fatal.
If you think your dog has been drinking from an outdoor water source and is showing symptoms including fitting or a difficulty to move or breathe, contact your vet immediately. It’s always a good idea to get your dog insured in the case of an accident or injury.