Don't think it won't happen to your dog: every year dogs die from blue-green algae poisoning and botulism. Swimming in warm, stagnant water can be life-threatening and fatal.
Blue-green algae are bacteria that look like seaweed or algae and they form an oily, smelly layer on the water surface. They can form during warm weather and in stagnant water and can produce a dangerous nerve agent, which, depending on the amount the dog ingests, can be fatal within an hour of ingestion. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, tremors and seizures. There is no antidote! Whether the dog survives an infection with blue-green algae depends on how severe the symptoms are.
Botulism is a potentially fatal illness caused by a toxin which is produced by bacteria. Botulism can spread in several ways, the bacterial spores which cause it are common in both soil and water. It can be fatal to aquatic birds and or fish, their carcasses can contaminate the water and subsequently your dog. The symptoms mostly appear after a couple of days after the swimming activity: vomiting, diarrhea and, signs of paralysis. And again: there is no antidote. Only the symptoms can be treated. The greater the amount of toxins ingested, the smaller the chance of recovery.
Always check the water first before you let your dog swim. Is the weather been warm lately? Is the water stagnant? Is there a oily, smelly layer on the surface or do you see carcasses from fish or birds? Are there any warning signs maybe? Then don't go into the water! Did your dog unexpectedly take a dive in contaminted water? Rinse him thoroughly and consult your vet for more information.
Wait a minute before throwing that ball
We often do it: grab the ball, throw it into the water and then... Splash! Your dog jumps after it. But.. what about the water current? Is there any pumping station or drain pipe nearby? Are there any hidden obstacles below the water surface that could cause injuries? Is there a boat passing by, causing dangerous suction? Are there any water birds in the area which your dog can go after and get into trouble? And what about the water's edge. can your dog easily come ashore on his own? In short: first check, then throw!
Fun in the water
Is there no clean or safe swimming water nearby? Set up a (children's) swimming pool in the garden for some water fun with your dog! Fill the pool with water so that your dog can cool off during hot summer days. Do take it easy with the water fun, even even simple game can cause your dog to overheat.
Did you know?
Not all dogs can swim! Some breeds can get in trouble because of their top-heavy shape. Swimming well is something you have to learn, and following your owner in the water is a matter of trust. It goes without saying that you don't teach a dog to swim by just throwing him in the water.
Too much water
An overdose of water? That's possible! Dogs can ingest too much water while swimming, especially if they swim with their mouths open because, for example, they are holding a ball, which can lead to life-threatening water poisoning. Too much water can penetrate the body cells, all kinds of organs can become confused. Symptoms can be: uncoordinated movement, weakening, lethargy, vomiting, pale mucous membranes, abdominal bloating, extreme drooling, dilated pupils and seizures. Do: immediatly visit the vet!
A dog who ingests a lot of water while swimming, maybe has to pee a bit more. Keep this in mind and walk your dog a few times extra after swimming exercises.
Not all dogs can swim!
Too little water
A dog that doesn't drink enough, or loses a lot of fluids through vomiting or diarrhoea, can get dehydrated. Especially puppies or older dogs are at risk. An easy way to test dehydration is to check the turgor: lightly pinch the skin near the shoulder blades between your fingers. If the skin remains in a wrinkle when you let go and doesn't fall back quickly, the dog may be dehydrated. Also the gums can feel dry or sticky. Go directly to the vet when your dog showns sign of dehydration!
If a dog doesn't drink well, you can make the water a bit tasties by adding a bit bouillon.
Some dogs rather drink outside from a pond, puddle or ditch rather than from their own waterbowl. This is not always safe, think about the earlier mentioned risks such as blue-green algae and botulism. Also Weil's Disease, an infection that a dog can catch from contact with water contaminated by rat urine. Dogs should have ability to fresh drink water 24/7 and wherever they are. So always make sure your dog has a clean, filled waterbowl!
Keep a bottle spring water in your car, this way your dog can safely drink water wherever you are. It's nifty when you're travelling, because tap water is not always safe to drink everywhere.
A dog is no seal
For some dogs, the sea looks like on big water bowl! But drinking seawater can make our four-legged friends quite sick, this can result in vomiting and or diarrhoea. Therefore always bring a bottle of water with you to the beach, and get your dog out of the water if he wants or keeps drinking the salt sea water.
Prins wishes you and your dog(s) lots of (safe) water fun!