The sun is shining, the air is warm, you’re out for a walk, and the water is the perfect spot for your pup to have a quick swim to cool down. But the news about dogs dying after they play in water contaminated with toxic algae terrifies you.
A million things run through your mind as you try to figure out if it’s safe to let your dog jump in the water.
We’ve put together our top five hazards around water for dogs to help you stay safe on your adventures.
Blue and green algae (When in doubt, Stay out!)
If you’re a dog owner, you’ve likely spotted a story on social media highlighting the risk of toxic algae or blue and green algae.
Before long, you start wondering if it’s easy to spot. Or worse, you fear you inadvertently let your dog swim in it, especially if you own a dog who loves to swim.
Toxic algae or blue and green algae is precisely that. When it is present in water, there is an unmistakable hue.
It thrives in warm, nutrient-rich water and will form “blooms.” These blooms produce cyanotoxins which are harmful to both humans and animals.
When ingested, toxic algae can cause vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory distress, weakness, lethargy, and seizures. It also can be fatal.
If you are concerned there is blue and green algae present, keep your dog out of the water.
There are several safe algae found in water sources, but these are yellow and is visible even with good water clarity. Blue and green algae is often found in water where there is a film or scum like appearance.
Parks sometimes have warnings up, or their websites will identify any recent toxic algae blooms so it can always be worth checking sources before heading out for the day with your dog.
Aside from the assumed risk of drowning in water, for dogs who play and retrieve in water, dogs also risk water intoxication.
This occurs when your dog has ingested far too much water for their body to handle.
Initial symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and abdominal distention. Further symptoms include weakness, coma, seizures, and ataxia.
Veterinary attention is vital. Prevention is critical, so be mindful if your dog swallows water when they are retrieving and keep their time in the water to a moderate level.
Too much salt?
If you are at the beach, you may instinctively think that your dog can drink seawater if they get thirsty.
Unfortunately, drinking large amounts of salt water can be fatal to a dog. In small quantities, you may see some irregular bowel movements.
When a dog drinks saltwater, to counteract the salt content, water is drawn to the intestines resulting in diarrhea and vomiting. In high quantities, however, the cells in the body release their water content to help counteract, which can cause brain injuries, kidney issues, and severe dehydration. Immediate veterinary attention is essential.
If you are heading to the beach, take some fresh water for your dog to drink and watch for them having a sneaky drink in the sea.
Although you may not be at the beach, many bodies of water can have fast and strong currents. It could be a rip at the beach or merely a fast-flowing section of the river.
Before you let your dog venture into any water, watch it for a few minutes.
Watch the flow, watch for any white water as this will help you figure out any underlying currents.
You need to be sure the water is safe for your dog, and they are capable of swimming in it.
Smaller dogs or less able doges may struggle with even the slightest of currents, so again, when in doubt, stay out!
If your dog finds his way into a stagnant pool of water, watch for vomiting or diarrhea for the next few days.
Be mindful if their symptoms are severe and always seek veterinary attention if you are concerned. But there is a risk of illness from any pool of water; even more so in immune-compromised pets.
So, if your dog has pre-existing health conditions that affect his ability to fight virus’ and bacteria, there is even more of a risk. Unless you stop your dog swimming altogether, there is always a risk.
Practice safe swimming
- Opt for fresh and flowing water where possible.
- Don’t allow your dog to drink from the water source; provide fresh water from home/a bottle.
- Rinse them off when you get home to remove any bacteria/parasite from their coat.
- Watch for any changes in health or behavior over the next couple of days.
John Woods is the founder and director of All Things Dogs, a graduate in animal behavior and welfare, and a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. He founded All Things Dogs in 2018 to educate 40 million pet parents on how to care for their dogs using force-free positive reinforcement training methods.
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