Pet Talk: Pets and water safety

From College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University

With temperatures topping 100 degrees, it is time to cool off. Summertime is time to get to the pool or lake for relief and fun in the sun. While we all know water safety is crucial for ourselves and especially for children, it’s also important to keep our pets safe around water.

“The good news is that all pets instinctively know how to swim,” said Dr. Mark Stickney, director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “However, it is still important that you monitor them and watch for any hazards they may encounter.”

Although pools can be a great way for both pets and owners to cool off, they can be harmful if not used and monitored properly.

“Dogs will usually self-regulate when they need to stop swimming, but if they are in the pool and they don’t know where the steps are or are unable to get up them, then it can become a problem,” noted Stickney. “This may mean that you not only have to watch them, but be in a position to help them out of the pool.”

While you might be watching your pet while they are swimming with the family, it is important to make sure there is no way they can get into or fall into the pool unsupervised.

Stickney said: “It would be a rare cat that would swim willingly, but it is possible for them to be chasing a bug and fall into a pool and not be able to get out. A pool can also be a hazard for a pet with epilepsy that could fall in while having a seizure.”

One other hazard Stickney warns of are pool covers. If a dog unwittingly walks onto a pool cover, it can get tangled in it and drown.

While chlorine levels in pools are typically safe for both humans and pets, chlorine can cause some eye irritation and discomfort.

“If your pet’s eyes get irritated, you can use regular saline solution to flush them out,” said Stickney. “Also, water exposure in general can cause some dogs to get ear infections, so it’s important to watch for that and take your animals to the veterinarian if either of these conditions persist.”

Lakes present similar risks as pools with regard to water safety, but Stickney explained that a few extra precautions are necessary when taking your pets on a boat.

“Make sure that if you take your pet on a boat that you have a lifejacket on them,” urged Stickney. “If the animal falls out of the boat, they could hit their head or they might not be able to get back into the boat, so they will need the jacket to help them stay afloat.”

Stickney explained that it is very important to have a special life jacket that is made for a pet because a lifejacket made for a human will not fit correctly and could get tangled around a pet’s legs or neck.

Stickney concluded: “One final thing that I would say about boat safety is that although you may be surrounded in water, if the dog can’t get into the water, they can get dehydrated. So, make sure you bring plenty of water for the dog to drink,”

Spending time with your pets in the water is a great way to have fun and beat the summer heat. With a few precautions and a lot of supervision, you can make sure it is a fun and safe time for everybody.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

From the October 7-13, 2009 issue

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