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Summer Splashdown: Helping pets get wet safely

Summer Splashdown: Helping pets get wet safely

Summer’s heating up, and what better way to cool off than with a refreshing swim? That goes double for our dogs, who are less efficient at cooling off than humans are, and many of whom are never happier than when they’re dog-paddling around.

But just because that most basic of all swimming styles is named after them, dogs are not always naturals in the water. If you’re going to be spending time in the water with your dog this summer, follow these safety precautions.


First, does your dog want to go in the water? And if she does, does she want to get her paws wet and go no further? Even a dog of one of the water-loving breeds may not want to go in beyond her toes, and it’s not a good idea to force her. If she’d rather lie in the shade and watch you dunk and dive – or even stay home in the air conditioning! – your best bet is to let her.

If your pooch does want to get wet, make sure she knows how to enter and safely exit whatever body of water is involved. You should never leave a dog with access to a swimming pool when you’re not there to supervise, but just in case, teach her how to get out by using the stairs or a pool ramp made specifically for dogs.


Speaking of breeds, be particularly careful with compact, short-faced dogs like the Bulldog. They are not natural swimmers – in fact, many of them can’t swim at all – and suffer from the heat far sooner than other kinds of dog.

Whatever their breed, even dogs who are champion swimmers need to be monitored. Current changes in an ocean or river can sweep your pet (or you) away unexpectedly.

What’s more, some dogs will just keep going until they’re so exhausted they can’t keep swimming. If your dog’s drooping, get him out of deep water and make sure he stays in it only belly-deep. Better yet, take a break and catch a cat nap together in the shade.


Swimming isn’t the only way to have fun in the water. Many dogs love to go boating, whether it’s on a raft or a sail boat. Use the same water safety tips you’d use for a child, which means always, always, always use a life vest made specifically for dogs.

One more tip: Just as you’d put sunscreen on your child if he was spending the day in the pool or pond, put it on your dog. Make sure to use a sunscreen that’s formulated for dogs, and is waterproof. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.

So that’s dogs… what about cats? If you go by what you see in cartoons, cats hate water with the burning fires of a thousand suns.

In real life, while few felines do more than drink the stuff, there are cats who enjoy swimming, or at least, cooling off in that kitty spa we humans mistakenly call the “bathroom sink.” Some have seen way too many National Geographic videos of tigers swimming to rule it out for themselves (if they even acknowledge being a different species from their giant cousins in the first place). Other cats take their heritage as ratters on seafaring ships very seriously, and enjoy cruising or living on their human family’s sailboat or yacht.

But cats, like dogs, can drown, be poor swimmers, get exhausted while trying to stay afloat, have trouble getting out of a pool, and get sunburned. So whatever safety precautions you’re taking for your dogs, take them your water-loving cats, too.

And if your cat prefers to simply sip rather than take a dip, respect his choice. 

Next Article:
Bringing a New Dog Home: 9 Successful Adoption Habits
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