How to keep your pet safe around water

Did you know that some dogs can’t swim? Here’s how to make sure your pet stays safe around water

How to keep your pet safe around water

Source: Best Health Magazine, Summer 2012

It’s a common misconception that all canines instinctively start dog-paddling their first time in water. In fact, about one in 1,000 dogs drowns each year. Dr. Lloyd Keddie, a veterinarian in Fairview, Alta., and president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, shares these pet-friendly water safety tips.

Give him some swimming lessons

If you spend a lot of time around a pool or at the lake in summer, ‘teaching your dog to swim and enjoy the water is important,‘ says Keddie. You can take your pet for lessons; here are a few places that offer swimming for dogs (and in some cases, for cats): Vancouver’s K9 H20; Calgary’s Pet Planet; Montreal’s Spaws; Stratford, P.E.I.’s Unleashed Potential K9; and Toronto’s Fit Dogs. Or create ‘the environment yourself with a kids’ wading pool.

How to start

If you’re patient, you can teach pets of any age to become expert paddlers. On average, it will take several attempts for a dog to learn. Support your pet’s midsection until he feels comfortable propelling himself.

Exit strategies

Even if your dog is a seasoned swimmer, never assume he’ll be fine if left alone near water. If he falls into a pool, repeated attempts to get out can exhaust him and he could slip under the water’s surface. To provide an easy escape, Keddie recommends installing a ramp designed for pets. You can purchase them online and from pool and pet stores. ‘It takes some training, but it’s important to make sure the dog knows where the ramp is and how to climb out,‘ he says.

Flotation devices

If you take your dog out boating, a doggie life jacket is a necessity, especially if you own a breed that has difficulty swimming (e.g., a bulldog, corgi or basset hound). A life jacket will keep him buoyant and help prevent drowning if he falls overboard.

Hidden dangers

At lakes, inspect the shoreline, dock and water for dangerous obstructions such as fishing nets, fishing lines or hooks that could entangle or harm your pet.

This article was originally titled "Does your dog paddle?" in the Summer 2012 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!