Surf 'n turf: not every dog digs water
My pit-bull mutt Lorna Doone isn't technically a water dog replete with webbed feet and a buoyant build, but she loves, LOVES to swim. And while squeaky grocery carts and sugar-crazed children may terrify her on land, she won't hesitate to leap snout-first into the ocean and crash through wave after wave to retrieve a ball.
While most dogs love to cool off in the water, some favor their land legs and are wary of taking a dip. If you've got a day at the beach, lake, river or pool planned, it's important to keep in mind that not all dogs can or even like to swim.
Pet Sitters International and the ASPCA offer these safety tips to help keep your pooch safe in and around the water:
•Get the O.K. from your vet:
Even before making sure that your dog can swim, determine if it's a good idea. Dr. Louise Murray, director of veterinary medicine at Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City advises pet owners to ask their vet if there are any existing medical conditions that would make swimming a dangerous activity for their pooch, such as obesity, heart and lung problems, short snouts, flat faces, age and heavy coats of fur.
•Let them get their toes wet:
Whether it's a pool or the ocean, it's never a good idea to throw your pet into the water. Your tough love approach can quickly backfire. After your potentially terrified animal (hopefully) makes it safely back to shore, water could become a phobia instead of a friend. Instead, introduce your dog to water carefully and gradually. "Use a leash when first getting into the water, and start in a shallow spot," Murray says. And if you have a large dog, make sure someone is there to help you hoist him out of the water in the event that something goes wrong.
•Keep an eye out for signs of distress:
Just like humans, dogs will look freaked out if something is wrong. "Watch for a frantic look on your dog's face or if her head starts to slip under the water," says Murray. Heavy panting and gums that are dark in color are also potential signs of danger.
•Never leave your pup in the water unsupervised:
Just like with kids, it's important to be there for your pet in case something goes wrong. Avoid areas with strong rip currents and keep your pet close to shore if they are swimming in the lake or ocean. It's also smart to be familiar with the marine life native to the area you're visiting. Jellyfish, lionfish, stingrays and Portuguese man-of-war and other animals, both on the shore and in the water, can be hazardous to you and your pet.
•Rinse off salt, sand and chlorine:
Giving your dog a good rinse right after they swim can help ward off skin irritations. Murray also suggests thoroughly drying their fur to prevent hot spots from forming.
•Dogs need SPF too:
Murray recommends using sunscreen on dogs with short or light-colored fur. The sunscreen should not contain zinc, which is highly toxic to dogs.
•Pack a pet life preserver:
Pets can easily slip or fall off a boat, so if you're planning a boat trip with man's best friend, make sure you bring along a life preserver designed for them.
•Keep the water flowing:
Give your dog easy access to plenty of fresh, cool water to prevent them from resorting to the pool or other questionable drinking sources, which could lead to an upset stomach. If you and your dog are visiting a river, watch out for snakes. Even if they're not poisonous, a snake bite can still pack a nasty punch if a curious pooch gets too close.