Chester & Rodney – Swim Like a Fish

Now that the nice weather is (hopefully) approaching, it’s time to start thinking about fun outdoor activities that you and Fido can enjoy together.  If swimming is on your list, it’s important to keep some safety tips in mind.  Some of these depend on the body of water in which you will be swimming.  Here are a few things to look for, keep in mind that there are many others.

If in a pool

  • Ensure the pool has steps that extend into in, not just a ladder.  Most dogs do not know how to use a ladder to get out of a pool.
  • Show your dog how to get to the steps.  From his vantage point swimming, he will not be able to see them.

In a lake

  • These can be full of fishing hooks which can stab Fido or fishing lines in which he can get tangled.
  • Check that there are no snapping turtles, alligators, or anything else that could see Fido as a snack.

At the beach

  • The best swimming beaches for a dog are those that are somewhat protected.  You don’t want Fido to get caught by an undercurrent or riptide.
  • Watch for jellyfish that frequent certain beaches.

In a river

  • As at the beach, watch for currents.
  • Fish hooks and fishing lines are also potential hazards.

For more safety, you can always buy your dog a safety vest.  Most of them come with handles on the back so you can grab on to your dog and lead them out or, in the case of small dogs, lift them out of the water.

No matter when you take your dog swimming, water intoxication can be a problem. When dogs consume excess water in a short period of time, they can develop hyponatremia, a condition marked by drastically low levels of sodium in the blood. This causes the cells to take on excess water and swell, which can lead to dangerous and potentially-fatal brain damage.

Another condition bears mentioning that can affect dogs and is more prevalent in certain breeds, namely working and hunting breeds.  The breeds in which this condition is mostly seen include Retrievers, American Water Spaniels, Basset Hounds, Beagles, Brittany Spaniels, English Pointers, English Setters, Foxhounds, German Shorthaired Pointers, Irish Setters, Springer Spaniels, and Vizslas.  One of my Golden Retrievers experienced this and it is unsettling, especially if you are unfamiliar with the syndrome. 

It is called Acute Caudal Myopathy and is also known as Limber Tail Syndrome, Dead Tail or Cold Tail and others.  It results from excessive use of the tail, which causes trauma to the vertebrae of the tail and/or surrounding muscles and ligaments. The affected tail will hang down limply or extend out a few inches and then hang down.  The dog will not be able to move it, so there will be no tail wagging.  Thankfully, this condition usually resolves itself within a few days to a week.  However, it is disconcerting for most owners to have Fido greet them at the door, all but expressionless.

And remember, no matter where your dog enjoys to go swimming, always supervise him and be prepared to get into the water to help him out, should the need arise.