Pool and Swimming Safety for Pets

Swim safety for pets
Dec 22, 2022

Heat Stroke / Heat Stress

Pools are an excellent way to keep pets cool in summer but they lead to pet drownings ever year.

Keeping your pet cool is critical to avoiding heat stroke (also referred to as heat stress).  Heat stroke can occur very quickly in pets and can be fatal if not recognised and treated immediately.  

Signs of heat stress include vocalisation, panting excessively, bright red gums and can progress to vomiting, uncoordinated walking, seizures, collapse and unconsciousness.  Bring your pet in to see us at The Village Vet immediately if you think they are suffering from heat stroke.  

Read more on heat stroke / heat stress here

Swim Safety

Swim safety is not just a dog worry… cats will sneak a quick drink from the pool through their natural curiosity.  And we know what curiosity did to the cat!  While this article does deal mostly with dogs, be careful of other pets around the pool this summer too.

Cats can be very curious around pools and ponds.

Whether your pet is a water lover or simply tolerates water, your pool can become a danger for them in just the same way as it might a young child.

After swimming, take all toys out of the pool to remove any unnecessary temptation for your pet to jump in while you are not looking.

Pool Fence

Pool fences are regulated so make sure yours meets the safety requirements for your area.  Keep the pool fence door closed at all times and never let your dog inside the pool fence unattended.  

Young puppies or kittens may be able to squeeze under pool fencing so firm up these areas with extra protection before you bring them home.

Pool Covers

If your pool has a cover that protects it from leaves and debris, keep the cover OFF when your dog is in the vicinity of your pool.  Dogs might investigate the pool and become stuck and disorientated under the cover.  This can and does lead to drownings for cats and even the best dog swimmers.

Steps and Ramps

Getting into the water for a dog may be as easy as a cannonball leap but getting out is more difficult until they are trained to use the steps correctly.  So it is essential to take time to train your dog on how to enter and exit the pool successfully.  Do this by gently guiding them to the stairs on entering and swimming with them to guide them back to the stairs for exiting.  Do this repeatedly and they will learn which side of the pool to exit from safely.

If your pool has a ladder and no stairs, a pool ramp should be installed as their safe exit area.  Train them as you would for the stairs.

Teaching a Dog to Swim

Most dogs will instinctively use all four paws to swim but sometimes, a dog will “forget” to use their back legs.  Instead, their front paws will splash excessively and the dog to will tire quickly leaving it at risk of exhaustion and drowning.  It is therefore important to spend a bit of time teaching them to swim correctly.  

By supporting their rear end for a short distance at a time, you can teach them to correctly use all fours paws to swim with.  Over time, this will help them even out their body position in the water and with a bit of practice the splashing will stop and they will become more competent and safer swimmers.

You might need to spend some time teaching your pet to swim correctly.

Not all Dogs Swim Equally

A dog with a larger head to body proportion or a dog with heavier muscles are less buoyant compared to other breeds.  Breeds that are less able to swim efficiently should be trained to wear a life jacket when near water.  Life jackets can also be useful for older dogs with arthritis or dogs that tire easily when swimming.

Natural swimmers however, may not recognise when they are reaching exhaustion and will fail to self-regulate with a break.  If your dog is “obsessive” with swimming, make sure you insist on rest breaks to keep them safe from exhaustion.

Top 5 tips from www.dogtipper.com

  1. Do not leave pets unattended near a pool.
  2. Make sure the pets have a way out of the pool like a ramp or shallow area.
  3. Make sure that pets do not get too tired. Many of them will swim until they cannot swim anymore.
  4. Make sure pets have plenty of clean water to drink so that they do not drink the pool water.
  5. Make sure young children are out of the way when the dogs are swimming. Many dogs will swim over people.

Dogs with FOMO

Excitement levels around the pool can sometimes get out of hand and just as children need to learn a level of safe control around the pool, so does your dog.  If your dog is getting over excited and running, barking and trying to “keep up” with the kids, you must take time to train them to remain calm.  Excited dogs can slip and cut themselves on the sharp tiled areas on the edge of the pool.

Speak to our trainer at DogWise Training for best practice tips on how to control this and maintain and safe and fun environment.

No matter how well your dog swims, never leave them unattended in the water.

Is It Safe for Dogs to Ingest Pool Water and Chemicals?

Here is some advise from @zoetis https://www.zoetispetcare.com/blog/article/swimming-pool-safety-dogs

Water Intoxication

Ingesting too much “good” water is bad for a dog and can cause water intoxication.  The novelty of drinking from a pool may cause a dog to drink excessively and suffer from water intoxication.  

If your dog ingests too much pool water, the sodium levels in their blood will drop dangerously low. Even though this is a rare situation, it can be fatal if not treated immediately.

Signs of water intoxication include:

  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of coordination
  • Drooling
  • Seizures

Pool Chemicals 

If you are unsure what chemicals and minerals are in your pool water, or if you use an outside contractor for pool maintenance ask what they use and check with us at The Village Vet to see if they are safe.  Most pool water, however use salt, chlorine or a combination of the two to keep it clear and swim safe.  These are unsafe for dogs to drink in excessive amounts.  

Salt poisoning can occur if too much water is ingested from saltwater pools.

Signs of salt poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures

Once pool chemicals, such as chlorine tablets, brominating tablets and muriatic acid are diluted in a pool, they’re generally not a concern. Typically, the most common side effect from ingestion of chemicals in the pool water is nausea and vomiting. However, if they’re ingested undiluted, such as your dog finding and eating the tablets, they are poisonous. They can cause ulcers in your dog’s mouth, throat, esophagus, and intestines which can result in intestinal perforation.

You can prevent toxicity by taking these steps:

  • Provide plenty of fresh water away from the pool.
  • Supervise to ensure they are not drinking pool water.
  • Keep all pool chemicals in chew-proof containers in a locked and secure location.
  • Keep dogs secured and away from open chemical containers when performing pool maintenance.

If you suspect your dog has water intoxication, salt poisoning, or poisoning from pool chemicals, bring them to see us at The Village Vet immediately.

Pool Water on Your Pet’s Skin

Depending on your pool and the chemicals used, it may be a good idea to rinse off your dog after a swim.  Excessive salt or chlorine may be licked off and consumed by your dog or cause skin or stomach irritations. 

If your dog has existing skin problems, check with us at The Village Vet before you let your dog swim.

Spot-on tick and flea prevention stipulates no swimming for a certain number of days after application otherwise your pet will not be protected from parasites.

How To Save A Drowning Dog


There is nothing more terrifying than finding your dog unresponsive in a pool. But you must remember to stay calm and take action. 

These are the steps to follow:

  • Clear the Airway of Water:   For small dogs and puppies, hold them upside down so water can drain from the lungs. Large dogs should be laid on their side as you try to elevate the body above the head so water can run out the mouth and nose.
  • Check for a Pulse:  Place two fingers on the inside of the upper part of the rear leg or listen for a heartbeat by placing your ear on their chest. You may have a hard time finding a pulse or hearing a heartbeat on overweight dogs.
  • If There Is a Pulse but No Breathing:  Extend the dog’s neck to open the airway. Close their mouth and cover their nose and mouth with your mouth. Breathe into their nose until you see their chest rise. Continue until your dog is breathing on their own.
    If There Is No Pulse
  • Attempt CPR on your dog.

If your dog has survived a near-drowning, bring them in to see us at The Village Vet even if they look and appear well.  “Near-drowning” (also called secondary-drowning) can occur when a dog has inhaled enough water not to cause drowning immediately but water may remain in the lungs resulting in pneumonia or a form of drowning up to three days after the event.


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