|Milo and Nala enjoy the river.|
Swimming is a great activity in the summer and can help your dog to stay cool while exercising. As long as you are cautious and sensible you and your pet should be able to have fun and stay safe in the water.
While rivers, streams and seas have the benefit of being clearer of infectious agents, running water can be misleadingly fast. Favour slow-moving rivers or streams. On the beach be aware of jelly fish and strong tides. Some dogs will swallow enough sea water to get salt poisoning which can be very serious.
Some dogs can’t swim or can’t hold their heads above water, this is true for most bulldogs and other brachycephalics (flat nosed breeds). If your dog is very old, very young, or gets tired easily it is important to monitor their swimming to make sure they aren’t getting out of their depth. Don’t let your dog swim too far from the bank or shore.
All natural bodies of water, particularly stagnant water, can contain a wide range of different types of bacteria, parasites and toxins. The majority of waterborne illnesses are transmitted by ingestion or skin contact, often causing diarrhoea and vomiting. Generally these illnesses are not life threatening as long as they are caught and treated appropriately in a timely manner.
Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial infection which can be passed on through water, for example from canals, streams, ponds and lakes contaminated with the urine of rats or other small rodents. Leptospirosis can spread to liver and kidney. It is a zoonotic infection, meaning they can be passed on to humans too.
Dogs should be vaccinated against leptospirosis annually.
Blue-green algae are not always obvious as algae bloom. Dogs can suffer from acute toxicity if they drink contaminated water. Fatalities have been reported.
Always have water on hand for your pet to drink so they won’t feel the need to drink stagnant water. If your pet shows signs of being unwell, seek veterinary advice quickly and remember to state that your pet has been swimming.
Dr Bettina Gruninger (Veterinary Surgeon), Alison Cuss and Nichola Wray (Veterinary nurses), Corinium Veterinary Surgery.