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How To Keep Dogs Safe Around Water: Tips

Written by: Sassafras Lowrey, MFA, CPDT-KA, CTDI

Last Updated on March 22, 2024 by Dogster Team

How To Keep Dogs Safe Around Water: Tips

Water-loving dogs don’t usually have the ability to make a decision about if the water is safe for them. Whether hitting the beach or spending the afternoon in your backyard, with some safety precautions, you and your dog can safely have fun in the water this summer. 

Dr. Jamie Richardson, Medical Chief of Staff at Small Door Veterinary, advises dog guardians to  “avoid water that has a fast-moving current, large waves or rip current or undertow warning.” If you are at the beach with strong waves or near fast-moving water, keep your dog leashed to you to ensure that your dog stays out of the water.

How to Keep Your Dog Safe In The Water This Summer

1. Use Doggy Flotation Devices (dog life jackets)

Having your dog wear a flotation device is extremely important. Even strong swimmers can benefit from them. 

“I would recommend that all dogs wear life jackets when they are on any type of watercraft. Equally, it is a good idea to keep a life jacket on your dog if they are swimming in the ocean, on the off-chance that they get caught in a rip current or undertow,” says Dr. Richardson.

In addition, puppies, senior dogs, and brachycephalic breeds of any age should always wear properly fitted flotation devices anytime they are near water, including backyard swimming pools, lakes, rivers, or the ocean. 

cute small dog in a lifejacket on prow of kayak
Image Credit: Gayleen Froese, Shutterstock

2. Avoid Water Intoxication

Many dogs love water, but it is possible for there to be too much of a good thing. Water Intoxication occurs when dogs drink too much water. It is most common with dogs who are playing in freshwater on hot days. 

“This may particularly occur when they swim after balls, as they can ingest quite a lot of water this way,” says Dr. Richardson. 

Vomiting, difficulty breathing, seizures, and loss of coordination are all symptoms of water intoxication. 

“Water intoxication can cause an electrolyte imbalance, which, at the worst end of the spectrum, can lead to brain swelling,” says Dr. Richardson. 

It’s a good idea to limit how long your dog is allowed to play in the water, especially on hot days. If your dog becomes ill after playing in the water, contact your vet right away. 

3. Stay Away From Dangerous Algae

Be cautious about the safety of the water you allow your dog to swim in. Blue-green algae is fatal to dogs and very common in areas across the country. 

Dr. Richardson warns, “Algal blooms are particularly dangerous to dogs as these contain cyanotoxins that affect the nervous system and/or the liver (depending on the species of algae). Ingestion of these while swimming or from drinking contaminated water can very rapidly result in gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, as well as seizures, liver failure and death.”   

Avoid any ponds, lakes, or rivers with evidence of algae blooms. 

“The blooms can often be seen as a blue/green, slime-like discoloration of the water or collections of algae on the surface of the water,” says Dr. Richardson. 

Unfortunately, these blooms are not always visible. Before heading out to enjoy a day in the water with your dog, check for any notices about water quality that may be posted on public bodies of water like lakes and rivers. Check with local news and parks department websites for any water advisories. 

Photo Credit: Ирина Мещерякова/Getty Images

Read Next: 6 Water Games to Play With Your Dog This Summer

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