August 30, 2011by Courtney Klein
Pet owners might be surprised to learn that not all dogs can swim. While some take to water naturally, others do not. Even for dogs that enjoy swimming, risks may exist. If a day at the beach, lake, river or pool is on the agenda this weekend, Pet Sitters International (PSI), the world’s largest educational association for professional pet sitters, offers a few safety precautions to help keep dogs safe.
Dr. Louise Murray, director of veterinary medicine at Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City, says the most important thing for pet owners to consider is a veterinarian consult before taking dogs to any body of water.
“Even before making sure that a dog can swim, it needs to be determined if it’s safe for a dog to swim,” Murray said. “Ask your veterinarian if there are any underlying medical conditions that would make swimming a dangerous activity for your pet.”
Conditions that can make swimming hazardous include obesity, heart and lung issues, short snouts, flat faces, age and heavy coats of fur. Once it’s been determined that it’s safe to swim, Murray advises that pets be introduced to water carefully and gradually.
“Initially restrain your dog with a leash when first getting into the water,” Murray said. “Get on the steps of the pool and have your arms at the ready. If you have a large dog, make sure someone is there to help you get your dog out of the water if something goes wrong.”
Once you’ve got your pet in the water and swimming, there are several signs of stress or danger to watch for. Just like humans, dogs will look distressed if something isn’t quite right.
“Watch for a frantic look on your dog’s face or its head slipping under the water,” Murray said. “Also be on the lookout for heavy panting, warm gums and gums that are dark in color.”
Murray said that one of the most important things to remember is never leave a pet unsupervised around a body of water. She also advised that dogs should be rinsed off and thoroughly dried after swimming.
“Rinsing off your dog after swimming will help avoid any skin irritations from forming, whether from chlorine, chemicals, salt or algae,” Murray explained. “Be sure to completely dry your dogs after rinsing them. If not properly dried, hot spots can form.”
In addition to water-safety issues, pet owners should also be concerned with sun exposure.
Murray recommends that sunscreen be applied to any dogs with short or light coats of fur, as well as to areas with little or no fur. She said that sunscreen should be designed for dogs and should not contain zinc, as zinc is highly toxic to dogs.
The ASPCA offers pet owners these additional water-safety tips:
Using the professional pet-sitting services of a PSI member business makes it possible for pets to continue their daily routines when pet owners are away. If swimming is a typical activity for your pet, be prepared to provide your professional pet sitter with verification that your pet’s health can support this level of activity. While some people may be surprised that not all dogs can swim, it’s a fact that should be addressed to help ensure the pet’s safety and well-being.
To find a professional pet sitter in your area, visit the PSI Locator.
©Copyright 2010 by Pet Sitters International. All rights reserved. For reprint permission for this article, contact EllenPrice@petsit.com.
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