When describing dogs most people would say that dogs are good swimmers and should feel comfortable in and around water. While this is true of some breeds, for example many Spaniels can find water no matter where they are, there are other less athletic breeds that prefer to stay on dry land and may be less confident or reluctant swimmers. Regardless of how much your dog likes water there are some important considerations to think about before deciding to let your pet go swimming.
Benefits Of Swimming
Swimming can have many benefits for your dog and can be an activity they enjoy or a useful therapy for certain injuries and illnesses. Dogs may enjoy swimming as a quick way to cool down on a hot day and it can also provide good mental stimulation. Swimming is a good way for your dog to exercise without putting pressure on their joints. This can be very beneficial for dogs with joint problems or dogs that are overweight. It can also be a useful activity when training to increase the fitness level of your dog for competitions or working. Hydrotherapy swimming can be very useful for dogs that are re-starting exercise after certain leg or spinal injuries and it can form an important part their recovery plan. Though it must be noted that hydrotherapy after injury should only be performed in a controlled environment, under the guidance of professionals and on the recommendation of one of our vets.
Places That Dogs Like To Swim
If your dog likes swimming then you may have noticed they that they are often able to find a source of water even in the driest of places, though it may just be a muddy puddle. It is worth being aware that not every water course is safe for your dog, sometimes for reasons that are not apparent on the surface of the water. Appealing places you might like to take your dog swimming may be the sea or an estuary, though it is important to realise that the tidal nature of these waters can quickly become very dangerous even for the strongest of swimmers. Rivers, lakes, ponds, canals and reservoirs may seem like sensible alternatives, but they all can have their own hidden dangers that you should be aware of. Ditches and stagnant water should always be avoided due to the risk of your dog coming into contact with nasty bacteria or toxins (poisons) that may make them ill.
The Dangers Of Swimming In Rivers
Rivers may seem the safer option when compared with the tidal sea, but rivers can have very fast and dangerous currents too and it can be easy for your dog to get into difficulty when swimming in these waters. Unfortunately, there have been incidents of dogs getting into trouble when swimming in rivers and people themselves drowning as a result of getting into difficulties when trying to rescue their pet. If in doubt of the safety of an area of water then it is best to avoid letting your pet swim there.
Any areas of stagnant water should be avoided, especially during the hotter months. Dogs that come into contact with this type of water can frequently develop diarrhoea and vomiting. For the majority this is short lived, with most dogs recovering. However, if your dog is young or elderly, or has an existing medical condition then this type of illness can be more serious. There is also a severe toxin that can be found in these waters, which is produced by certain types of blue-green algae. This toxin can be fatal for dogs even if they are only exposed to a very small amount. This algae commonly grows in stagnant water in the warmer weather and can be found in high quantities by the edge of the water. Unfortunately, this toxin is quickly fatal to dogs, with signs seen within an hour of exposure, so this type of water is best avoided completely. If you are worried about blue green algae then come and speak to us for advice.
As with any water, an issue with swimming in rivers, particularly if you cannot see to the river bed, is the possibility of hidden debris. Depending on the size and nature of the debris this could pose a risk of injuring your pet.
Another concern with dogs swimming in water is the risk of developing infection. Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial infection that dogs can pick up from contact with infected water. This infection can be fatal for your dog but it is also zoonotic (can be passed to people), where it also causes serious disease. Leptospirosis can be vaccinated against and for your pet to have maximum protection they would require a yearly vaccination. However, there are many different types of Leptospirosis bacteria and not all of them are covered by the vaccination, so there is always a small risk of vaccinated dogs becoming infected by a less common type of Leptospirosis bacteria. If you are unsure if your dogs Leptospirosis vaccination is up to date then speak to us for advice.
Many of the dangers that come from swimming in rivers can also be applied to other water sources such as reservoirs, ponds, canals and lakes. So if you have any doubts over the safety of a particular area of water then it is best to avoid letting your pet swim there.
Concerns When Swimming In The Sea
The major concern for your dog when swimming in the sea is the tidal nature of the water and how, in certain currents, your dog can quickly get into difficulties. Again, in these situations owners want to help their pets but can often get into further difficulties themselves.
Sea water is very salty and, after ingestion, dogs can frequently develop vomiting and diarrhoea. For the majority of dogs they will recover quickly but it can cause a more serious problem in dogs with certain medical conditions and in the young or elderly. If you dog has epilepsy and is on potassium bromide treatment for their seizures, then the change in salt level that occurs from drinking the sea water can unbalance their treatment and cause an increase in seizure frequency.
Can I Let My Dog Go Swimming?
If you want to take your dog swimming then you will need to find a safe area of water with no hidden dangers. This may be hard to find when out and about so specially designed dog pools can be ideal.
When swimming your pet will often be off the lead and away from you, so it is vital that they have a good reliable recall and will return to you promptly when called. You should work on your recall first before introducing water so you know that you can quickly call back your pet if needed.
With the hidden risk of infection, it is sensible to make sure that your dogs vaccinations are up to date before allowing your dog to go swimming. This will minimise any possible risk of infection. If your pet has an existing medical condition and you are concerned about how swimming will affect them, then we also advise that you speak to one of our vets beforehand.
As the hotter weather approaches we all want to be out with our dogs and enjoying the sunshine. Your dog may enjoy a cool down in some water, so we want to make any swimming activities that you may do with your dog as safe as possible. If you have any questions about taking your dog swimming, or any concerns about how your pet’s health would affect them swimming, then we are more than happy to help answer them.