Visiting the lake, ocean, river, or pool can be a fun way to cool off with your dog in the summertime. Understanding the dangers that pets face, though, can help ensure you plan ahead and take proper precautions while near or in the water.

Swim safety: Not all dogs naturally know how – or like! – to swim, and like us, they can succumb to strong currents and rip tides. Exercise extreme caution and watch closely for signs of distress if your dog ventures into water above their elbows. If your pet goes under the water or experiences a near-drowning, get them to a veterinarian quickly. Dogs can inhale water into their lungs and experience “dry” or secondary drowning as a result, even days after they’ve left the water’s edge.

Pool precautions: If your pet is around a pool, safety is of the utmost importance. If the pool isn’t fenced or gated, keep your pet on a leash when around the pool, and ensure you never leave them alone by the water. Even confident dogs and cats can slip and fall into the water or have trouble climbing out.

Leptospirosis: Caused by the leptospira bacteria, leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be spread from animals to people. Dogs (and rarely, cats) can pick up the bacteria in nature, especially by drinking water from rivers, lakes, and streams. Signs of infection may include fever, shivering, muscle tenderness, reluctance to move, increased thirst, changes in the frequency or amount of urination, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, or jaundice.

Toxic algae: While not necessarily well-documented in our area, toxic algae blooms can occur throughout the U.S. and Canada, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The algae or pond scum, which may appear blue-green, red, or brown, is actually cyanobacteria, which contaminates fresh and saltwater and makes it extremely poisonous.  Do not let your dog walk in, swim in, or drink any water with algae – there is no treatment for these toxins, and for many pets, infection is fatal.

Sand and surf: Don’t let your dog eat sand. If they eat enough, it can form a hard ball in their digestive tract, a condition called “sand impaction,” which can be dangerous. Likewise, saltwater is not great for pets’ stomachs, so always bring plenty of fresh water on your seaside outing.

If your pet develops an illness or experiences an emergency near water this summer, call us at 908-232-1048 to schedule an appointment at either our Westfield or Union locations. Our Union emergency service is open seven days a week, 365 days a year, from 7 am – 7 pm.