Taking a dip with your pooch can be oodles of fun, and under the right conditions, it’s quite safe to swim with your dog in a pool or in the ocean. But there a few things you need to consider before you set off for the water.
The first is to make sure you’re in a place that welcomes your best friend. Establish that you’re on a dog-friendly beach (owners caught with their dogs on restricted beaches can be fined more than $300 by some councils) or at a dog-friendly pool.
The next key things to consider are ears and skin. Ears become an issue when dogs swim as some may develop otitis externa (infection of the external ear canal). The latter tends to happen because moisture builds up in the external ear canal, leading to overgrowth of bacteria and yeast that normally live on the skin.
Read more: How to clean your dog's ears
Signs of otitis externa include head-shaking, ear-scratching and even very smelly ears.
The use of a good quality ear cleaner after swimming can reduce the risk of this ailment. If you notice that your dog’s ears are looking red, or if you notice a bad smell or discharge, see your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Skin is the largest organ in a dog’s body. Some dogs have more sensitive skin than others and are prone to inflammation or infection (dermatitis). This is often associated with itching, which can be constant in some dogs. Pool water is usually not a problem for dogs, but it is important not to allow dogs – however keen they seem – to swim in, or drink, dirty pool water. This can result in skin infections or gastrointestinal upsets.
To remove residual chlorine or sand from the coat, give your dog a post-dip rinse under the hose and a gentle towel dry. Use a face washer or similar to dry the ears.
If your dog has pre-existing dermatitis, it is best to avoid swimming. Your veterinarian can recommend a suitable shampoo.
Then there’s the all-important issue of water safety and the key here is knowing your dog. Just like people, some dogs are stronger swimmers than others. If you’re not sure what of your dog’s skills in the water, start at the shallow end and wade in alongside him or her. If your pooch wears a life vest, ensure that it is fitted correctly so that he or she doesn’t get caught in it.
Water safety applies equally to dogs, too – never allow a dog to swim unsupervised. When it comes to ocean swimming, remember that pets can get caught in rips, too, so avoid swimming in rough conditions.
If you are spending time with your dog by the ocean, take care around rocks and oysters which can lead to abrasions and cuts. And remember that paralysis ticks love the coast, so make sure your best mate’s tick prevention is up to date.
It might seem like a daunting list of things to think about. But with a little preparation both you and your dog can enjoy one of the great pleasures of the Australian summer – a quenching dip in the pool or the surf.
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