When the southeast Texas sun beats down and temperatures soar above 100 degrees, few things are more enjoyable than a refreshing dip in the pool. Most dogs also enjoy a good swim, but some don’t have the skills to stay safe in the water. Although a few breeds are built for swimming, others must build strength and learn how to move their bodies to stay afloat. The Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team in La Marque shares swimming safety tips and tricks to transform your pet into a water lover.

#1: Introduce your puppy to water at an early age

Every puppy owner’s socialization checklist should include an introduction to water and swimming as soon as possible, especially if you own or plan to own a home with a pool. Like all other early experiences, keep water visits positive, and move slowly at your puppy’s pace. Take your pup in the water with you, starting on the pool steps, and gradually move into the open water, allowing your pup to paddle while you support their body. Take lots of breaks and provide treats or other rewards throughout the experience.

#2: Provide swimming lessons for your pet

Your pet can learn to love the water as an adult, if you didn’t have the chance to introduce them to swimming as a puppy. Follow the same puppy process, gradually stepping toward the final end goal, but letting your dog move only at their speed. Adult dogs may take some time to warm up to the idea or may never accept water—and that’s OK. If they are still anxious or wary about getting in the water on their own after several attempts, accept that you don’t have a water dog.

#3: Use a life jacket in open water

Life jackets are useful to help beginners stay afloat while they strengthen their muscles. They are also important for safety and visibility if your pet is on a boat or near open water where they could fall in or swim out too far and need help. Measure your pet or take them to the store to ensure a good fit.

#4: Discuss parasite prevention options for frequent swimmers

Parasites are a huge problem in warm climates, and some of the most effective preventive products are topicals. For the average pet, a topical treatment is waterproof and will last through several baths, but swimming or bathing several times weekly will decrease effectiveness considerably. A product administered orally is a better choice for swimmers, so ask our team about your options.

#5: Keep pets away from algae-infested waters

Blue-green algae is a specific algal species that thrives in warm, stagnant waters and is extremely toxic to pets—exposure to only a small amount can kill them in minutes to hours. You cannot identify an algae species from appearance alone, so avoid all visible algal blooms and cloudy or scummy water. You can also check with your local or state EPA for known blooms.

#6: Always supply fresh water to pets

Pets are likely to drink the water they swim in, which can be dangerous. Fresh, natural water bodies are often contaminated with bacteria, algae, or parasites that can make pets sick, and salt water can dehydrate your pet or lead to salt poisoning. Chlorinated pool water is not as dangerous, but can potentially still irritate your pet’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Take plenty of fresh water and encourage pets to drink frequently.

#7: Bathe your pet after swimming

Pets who swim can accumulate moisture, microorganisms, or drying chlorine or salt on their fur and skin. Avoid a skin infection by rinsing or bathing pets after each swim session and drying them thoroughly with towels or a blow dryer. Ask our team to demonstrate proper ear-cleaning methods and to prescribe a drying cleanser that will prevent ear infections from developing or worsening after water exposure.

Pets can learn to love the water and become adept swimmers, but they should always be supervised in the water, because accidents can happen, regardless of their skill level. Prepare your pet for swimming season with a pre-summer health check and a parasite prevention consultation at Neighborhood Veterinary Centers in La Marque. Contact us to schedule your next visit or to find a sister location near you.