Dogs and water - keeping them safe

Climate change experts are warning that our summers are going to get hotter with more regular heatwaves.

Whilst human sun lovers might relish this news, others may dread it.  Heat takes lives, the elderly, those with chronic health conditions, and those that don’t respect the effects of too much time in the sun can pay the ultimate price. The same applies to our dogs.

As we know, dogs are a social species – they love company, and one of the highlights of their day is heading out for their walks with their owners. In hot weather, dogs should only be walked at dawn or dusk when it’s cooler. Contrary to popular belief, dogs don’t always recognise that they are overheating, and keep going. They chase after the ball as many times as their owner throws it.  They rarely ever step outside and say ‘oh, it’s a bit too warm for me, I’ll stay home thank you very much’.

One of the excuses owners give for having fun in the sun with their dogs is that they participate in water based activities. If their dogs are wet, they must be cool, right?  The answer is maybe, but are we looking at the big picture? Are we looking at the hazards that come with fun and water?

Water-based activities include swimming in the sea, swimming in lakes, retrieving toys from lakes, swimming in rivers, and biting at water that comes out of hoses.

Swimming in the sea

Firstly, on a hot day the sand can get extremely hot and uncomfortable. We wear flip-flops for a reason! Secondly, you need to know about the times of the tide on the beach you are using, especially for the more confident canine swimmers that travel away from the shoreline.  There is also the risk of your dog entering a rip tide which could be very serious. Thirdly, some dogs drink sea water.  This can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration. Sadly if left untreated, this can result in death, so care must be taken to provide regular breaks and plenty of fresh water for them to drink.

Swimming in lakes and rivers

When it comes to swimming in lakes, it is very important that you have researched whether the lake could be affected by Blue Green Algae. It isn’t always easy to spot with the naked eye, but can be fatal to our dogs. They don’t even have to drink it to be at risk, it can be absorbed through their pads.

Another concern for lakes is that owners like to throw items into the water for their dog to retrieve.  There are a few risks involved in this activity that you may not have thought about. Firstly, there is the risk of hidden branches in the water. There have been cases where a dog has jumped in to a lake only to get stabbed or impaled on an upturned stick.  There is also the risk of water reeds getting caught around the dogs legs, and thus pulling them under the water. Water fowl have babies throughout the summer months, and only recently a dog was drowned by a swan that was protecting its young.

Rivers are also a popular destination, the same risks apply to swimming in lakes, but two additional concerns are that river banks are often quite steep. Swimming is a very tiring activity, so when they’ve had their fun climbing up a steep bank to get out of the water can be very challenging. Many an owner has fallen in trying to help their dog get out of the water.  Another thing to consider when allowing your dog to swim in rivers is the strength of the current. Tired dogs can easily get swept away and into trouble.

Biting at water from hoses

Finally, there is the home entertainment of allowing our dogs to bite at the water as it comes out of a garden hose. As these dogs get excited, they grab quicker and harder at the water. This often results in the water stream going straight down their throats. Not only is there a risk that some of this water could end up in their lungs, but a lot of it goes into their stomachs, and can potentially cause water intoxication.

Water intoxication occurs when a dog takes in too much water. This happens when they do a lot of water retrieves as their mouth is open to hold the item, therefore they just swallow the water that goes into their mouths whether they are thirsty or not. It also happens when they bite at water coming out of a hose. Whilst this risk is not particularly high, it’s still a risk, and one that can be avoided.

Keeping your dog cool

As responsible owners, it is our duty to ensure the safety of our dogs. Managing their comfort in hot weather is down to us.

Keeping windows and doors closed with the curtains drawn throughout daylight hours whilst a fan is moving the air around is a great way of keeping your dog cool. Leaving them at home rather than taking them on family outings is advised. Frozen stuffed kongs and calm mental stimulation games at home during extreme heat is an ideal way to keep your dog happy. A kids paddling pool that has been placed in the shade in the garden is nice for your dog to have a wallow in, and we also recommend using cool mats.

No dog has ever died from missing a walk or two, but sadly dogs have died from heat exhaustion after being walked in excessive heat.

Are all water activities out of the question? Absolutely not. Just be sure to know the facts, do your research, know what to look for, and remember to keep the activity calm. We all love our dogs and we want to ensure their safety.

If you have any further questions about keeping your dog cool in the summer, please contact us, and our team will be happy to help!

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