Is it safe to let dogs go swimming?
Living on such a beautiful coastline, it is not surprising many people ask this question. Our coast provides a vast outdoor area, perfect for walking your dog and sometimes controlling whether they enter into the water or not can be a challenge! Some dogs are great swimmers, while others cannot swim at all.
You should only decide an area is suitable for your dog to swim in after assessing the area for hazards. When you find an area you feel is suitable for swimming, you should slowly and gradually introduce the idea of swimming to them. If possible, this introduction should occur when they are a puppy. Many animals may be scared of water or struggle to swim and it is important to introduce them, to gradually increase the depth of the water, in order to ensure they do not become permanently terrified of water. No dog should be forced to swim, as some will find it too physically demanding. Remember, not all dogs are good swimmers.
Swimming is great exercise for dogs. Hydrotherapy is often prescribed to dogs with bone and muscle disorders. It allows lots of large muscle groups to work in coordination whilst also providing a cardiovascular workout too. This helps to promote a healthy, active lifestyle increasing the life quality of our dogs. Because swimming is such a strenuous exercise for dogs, it is great at tiring them out. They may sleep for hours afterwards, which could be used to your advantage if you know you have a busy day coming up and cannot walk them as frequently as you would like to.
Many dogs find swimming extremely fun and will paddle in every drop of water they find, whether that be a puddle or the ocean. Fetching balls from the water can be a great play session. This will improve their quality of life – however, be sure not to throw the toy into dangerous areas.
Going into the water may be a great option for your dog if the weather is extremely warm. Dogs’ pads often get burnt on hot pavements in the summer. The water provides a cool surface so your dog doesn’t have to put as much pressure onto their pads helping to alleviate pain. The water acts to help temperature regulation just as it does in humans.
Different infections can be carried in the water. You need to ensure your dog is vaccinated for the specific diseases likely to infect them – these will vary depending on your location. Your vet will be able to specify which are best.
If your dog has a skin condition, dampness may aggravate the skin amplifying the symptoms or triggering an immune response. This could lead to excessive itching and discomfort. If this is the case, we would advise you keep your dog away from the water. The long term stress is not worth it. You should ensure you dry your dog thoroughly after being in the water as leaving dampness in areas which struggle to dry naturally may increase the risk of fungal infections.
If your dog wears a collar (which they should do), you need to be aware that they may become caught in long reeds. This can be very dangerous as your dog may panic. The result could be fatal. You should avoid having any tags on collars if your dog swims.
You should keep a close eye on your dog while they swim. Be aware of your dog’s swimming capabilities. Swimming is extremely tiring so do not motivate your dog to swim too far out by throwing balls/sticks into deep water, in the fear they may not be able to return. Do not allow them into the water if the tide is strong or you are unaware of the safety of the water. Many beaches also have dangerous currents which can carry a dog far out to sea, and even calm-looking rivers or lakes may have eddy currents. If you have any doubts, remember that the risk is not worth it.
If your dog does appear to start drowning or struggle to swim, DO NOT JUMP INTO THE WATER to save them. You should seek help as soon as possible from a qualified professional. If you are unsure of the ability of your dog to swim, it could be a good idea to purchase a dog life jacket – you must speak to us regarding sizing as a poorly fitted life jacket can be dangerous. Alternatively, you could keep your dog on a very long lead while they swim, however, you must be sure that there are no obstacles in the water for the lead to get hooked upon.
Unfamiliar water may have multiple unknown hazards. You should lookout for sharp rocks or shells that your dog may pierce their pads on, as this would be painful. Many waterbeds are home to wildlife which may become aggressive if agitated, acting as a danger to your dog. The water may contain dead animals containing infectious material including parasites and toxins. If your dog consumes these other animals, they may also become intoxicated.
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