Taking Your Dog Swimming: Is it Safe?

Is it safe to let your dog swim? | Animed Direct

On hot summer days, taking your dog swimming in a nearby lake or dog swimming pool could be a great way for your pooch to cool off. Swimming is a fantastic form of exercise for dogs, and since it is a non-weight bearing activity, it won’t put stress on your dog’s joints. However, it is a myth that all dogs are good swimmers instinctively, and there are other potential hazards to be mindful of when taking your dog for a dip.

Can All Dogs Swim?

Contrary to popular opinion, not all dogs are good swimmers. Dogs that can swim include Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands and Poodles, but even these naturally water-loving breeds will still need to be introduced to the water gently and learn how to swim.

Some of the breeds that particularly struggle in the water include those with longer bodies, heavier chests and shorter legs, such as corgis, pugs and dachshunds. Breeds such as these will be much happier with a garden sprinkler to cool them down, or a very shallow paddling pool.

dog swimming pool

How to Teach a Dog to Swim

When introducing your dog to the water for the first time, it’s important not to throw them in the deep end – literally! Keep in mind that dogs can tire easily, and, despite their furry coat, they can get cold quickly too so keep your dog swimming lessons short to begin with.

Get them splashing in the shallows first to get them comfortable with water, and when they are ready, you can hold an arm under their body to support them while they get used to kicking all four legs. You can also secure a swim vest to help keep them afloat.

Most importantly, ensure that you teach your dog how to get out of the water by encouraging them back to the shallow area or edge of the body of water. Never leave your dog unattended – even if they are swimming confidently! For more advice, head over to our dedicated How to Teach Your Puppy to Swim blog.

How to teach your puppy to swim | Animed Direct

Where Can Dogs Swim in the UK?

Now that your pooch is a water-lover, they may well be eager to dive into any body of water that crosses their path. Lakes, slow-moving rivers and the sea are all good places for your dog to take a dip, and there are plenty of dog swimming pools in the UK.

However, avoid reservoirs, stagnant bodies of water like canals, and fast-moving water. Before letting your dog go for a swim in a river or the sea, be sure to check for hazards such as strong tides, powerful currents and large waves. Never let your dog in the sea when it’s rough or stormy, and be aware of rip currents, which are powerful currents of water running away from shore.

Fast-flowing rivers also pose a danger, as do flood waters which are often full of potentially harmful debris. You should also check whether there are any obstacles, such as fallen trees in the water, that could cause harm.

Is Sea Water Ok for Dogs?

While a few gulps of salty sea water won’t harm your dog, too much can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, and in very extreme cases, it can be fatal. It’s best to prevent your dog from drinking sea water as much as possible. You can do this by encouraging them to drink from a fresh bowl of water at regular intervals to keep them hydrated and reduce temptation to drink from the sea.

You should always wash your dog after they’ve been swimming in the sea. Otherwise, when they groom themselves they will ingest the salt and be at risk of the same side effects mentioned above. Salt water is also very drying to the skin.

Is it Ok for a Dog to Swim in a Chlorine Pool?

Like sea water, small amounts of chlorinated water won’t have any adverse effects on your dog so you can let them in a chlorinated dog swimming pool without concern. However, prolonged exposure can sometimes cause eye irritation and an upset stomach, so keep an eye on them.

It’s also important to wash your dog after swimming in a chlorinated pool, as chlorine can dry out a dog’s fur and make their skin dry and itchy.

Can My Dog Get Sick from Swimming in the River?

During the summer months in particular, a group of bacteria known as blue-green algae can grow in rivers, lakes and ponds. Some types of blue-green algae contain highly poisonous toxins that can be fatal to dogs, so be sure to check the water is free of it before letting your dog swim in it.

How to Identify Blue-green Algae

Is it safe to let your dog swim? | Animed Direct

When blue-green algae clumps together during increased periods of growth called ‘blooms’, it can form a blue-green scum on the surface of the water, with an appearance a bit like pea soup. It can also appear green-brown or green in colour and can foam around the edges of the water. As well as blooms, blue-green algae can also form ‘scums’, which occurs during calmer weather. These can look like paint or jelly and can vary in colour from blue-green, grey-green, greenish-brown and sometimes reddish-brown.

What Happens if My Dog Drinks Blue-green Algae?

If your dog drinks water containing blue-green algae, or gets any on their fur while swimming and ingests it while cleaning themselves later on, you should call your vet straight away. The sooner treatment is administered, the better chance of recovery for your dog, as your vet may be able to flush out the toxins before damage occurs.

Some of the signs of blue-green algae poisoning in dogs include vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures or fitting, weakness or collapse, confusion and breathing difficulties. If your dog shows any signs of these symptoms and has been in or near a body of water recently, consult your vet immediately.

How Do I Protect My Dog’s Ears When Swimming?

When water makes its way into a dog’s ear canal, due to the L-shaped structure, it’s very difficult for the water to come out again. Moist environments are prime locations for bacteria growth and so swimming can sometimes result in ear infections in dogs. Floppy-eared dogs in particular can be at risk of ear infection as their ears tend to trap moisture.

Always dry your dog’s ears thoroughly after a swim by patting them with a towel to prevent water in their fur from draining into them. Regular cleaning is usually enough to stave off infection. For more advice on cleaning your dog’s ears, check out our blog post. A gentle ear-cleaning solution applied regularly is a great way to keep your dogs ears clean and healthy.

Is it safe to let your dog swim? | Animed Direct

There is so much fun to be had when it comes to swimming with your dog in the summer, and you can look forward to plenty of sunny adventures with your four-legged friend in the coming months. Just be sure to scout out any potential swimming spots for the dangers mentioned in this blog post, and we know you’ll make great memories this summer. Happy swimming!

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