As the weather gets warmer, many pet parents will take their dogs swimming. This is a great activity that so many of our pups love, whether you’re going to a nearby river, lake, or beach. Water play does pose a few potential risks that every dog owner should know to watch out for, so here are our top 5!
Just like people, dogs can get what is commonly referred to as swimmer’s ear. This is an infection of the ear canal from water retention, which is more common in our canine pals due to the L-shape of their ear canal. Signs of an ear infection include redness, pain, scratching, and sometimes an odour. If your pup enjoys splashing around in the water on a hot summer’s day, it is best to use a veterinarian-approved ear cleaner to make sure to avoid an infection. If you do suspect your dog currently has an ear infection, book an appointment with your vet right away.
Cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as blue-green algae, usually blooms in still or slow-moving water in hot weather. Dogs ingest cyanobacteria while playing in bodies of water, leading to liver failure which is unfortunately often fatal. When there are dense cyanobacteria blooms, the water can take on a blue-green appearance, look like pea soup, or turquoise paint. Blue-green algae can make the water’s surface look oily, and if there are really dense blooms they can form solid-looking clumps. You might also notice a smell like freshly-mown grass or rotting garbage.
Also known as hyperhydration, water poisoning, and water toxemia, this can make your pup very ill and can even be fatal but is fairly rare. Excessive water intake leads to a depletion of sodium levels (hyponatremia). The body’s cells then swell with extra fluid to rebalance the low sodium levels. If this swelling occurs inside the brain, potentially fatal neurological symptoms can occur. Signs to watch out for include bloating, a lack of coordination, lethargy, vomiting, difficulty breathing and seizures. Smaller breeds of dogs are at higher risk of water intoxication, especially those who enjoy retrieving toys in water or playing with hoses / pressurized water sources.
Giardia And Leptospirosis
Your dog can pick up parasites and diseases from water sources. Giardia is a parasite spread through the feces of infected animals that get into water sources, which your pup then ingests. Giardia most commonly affects puppies, and sometimes has no symptoms at all. When dogs do get symptoms from giardia, they will have diarrhea. Leptospirosis is a bacteria that is spread when an infected animal’s urine gets into a water source and is then ingested or enters the bloodstream through a cut in the skin. This bacteria is zoonotic, which means that it can affect dogs and humans alike. Symptoms include fever, increased thirst, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy or jaundice. Lepto can be prevented by an annual vaccine.
This condition is known as limber tail, but one of the most common causes is swimming which is why it is often referred to as swimmer’s tail! This most frequently happens at the beginning of the season due to chilly water temperatures and a lack of fitness. Our four-legged friends use their tails like a rudder to steer when they’re swimming, which can lead to overexertion. Symptoms of swimmer’s tail are a completely or partially limp tail, discomfort or pain especially if you try to move your pup’s tail, whining, licking or chewing on the tail, and raised hair on the top of the tail. Your veterinarian may prescribe medications such as a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, and/or muscle relaxant and recommend rest until your bud is healed up.
Although water play does have its risks, it doesn’t mean you can’t still safely enjoy splishing and splashing this summer with you dog!