Monday, July 27, 2015

Pets and Water Safety: Pools, Boats, and Lakes

Summer has finally arrived and your four-legged friend can enjoy the cool water just as much as you do. But there are some things to be considered before letting your dog or cat dive into the summer fun.

Prepare & Plan Ahead

  • Pet Identification: Pet identification is a must, either in the form of a secure ID tag or a microchip, or better yet, both. Make sure your microchip is registered and up to date with contact information.

  • Personal Floatation Device: It is highly recommended that your pet don his/her own life vest when on or around water. These can be found either online or at your local pet supply store.

  • Obedience Training: Obedience training goes well beyond household manners. Having a dog who will obey your every command, including a solid “wait” and recall, in any situation will help you and your furry friend avoid hazardous situations and can even save his/her life. Teach your pet location specific routines, like where the steps are in the pool or how to get back onto your boat. Practice them frequently, so if a “pet overboard” situation occurs, he or she knows how to get out of the water safely.

  • Get Familiar with the Water: Familiarize yourself with any body of water before allowing your pet to take a dip. Be aware of tides and currents and don’t let your pet to swim in any hazardous areas or conditions. Get to know your pet’s athletic ability and limitations. Learn to read body language and recognize when he/she is becoming fatigued so that you can call them out of the water before he/she becomes too tired to swim.

  • First Aid: Know basic first aid for your pet and consider learning pet CPR. If an emergency should arise, proper steps taken in the field can save your pet’s life.

  • Bring Fresh Water for Your Pet to Drink: Offering water often will help avoid having them drink salt or potentially contaminated water.

Swimming Pools

Pools can be fun for the whole family, but, like children, your pet should never be granted access to your backyard oasis unsupervised. The best solution to this potential problem is enclosing the pool with a secure fence. If you don’t have a pool, a nice way to offer your pet that cool-water relief from the heat of the summer is a hard, plastic kiddie pool. A few inches of water will be just enough for the pet enjoy and is safe for pets of all shapes and sizes. But be sure to empty the pool after your pet is done cooling off. Standing water attracts mosquitoes, which transmit heartworm disease.


You and your pet should “test the waters” before actually setting sail together. Get your pet used to the water and the boat a little bit at a time at the dock or even on the trailer in your driveway. Once they are comfortable with the vessel, start by taking short trips. Pets can become motion sick, just like you and me. Speak with your veterinarian about medication that can manage this problem.

We’re all familiar with house training, but how about boat training? To make your nautical outings are a complete success, teach your pet to “do their business” in a specific location on the boat, and, for you go-getters, on command.

So, whether it’s a quick dip or a day-long cruise, you and your pet can safely enjoy the water together. Just take some time to plan ahead and have fun in the sun!

For more information, please visit The Pet Connection: Splish, Splash, Caution and
YachtPals’ Boating with Dogs and Cats

By: Katie Brunetti, Veterinary Technician