Should I Allow My Pet to Swim?

On those hot summer days, we all like to jump into cool refreshing water. Some dogs even like to when it’s still cold out!

There are some concerns to consider:

  • Ear Infections

The normal ear canal contains some bacteria and some yeast. Adding water creates the perfect environment for these organisms to flourish. It is warm, dark and has little airflow….just add water. Of course, if this is your dog’s favourite activity and you just can’t say “no” there are some ear cleaning solutions that contain drying agents. Using these after each swim can reduce (but likely not eliminate all) ear infections.

Some water can be contaminated with different types of bacteria that are not normally found in the ear canal. E.coli is a prime example of what can grow in the water on those hot days.

swimming ear infection
  • Leptospirosis

This disease is caused by an organism called a spirochete. It is spread when infected rodents (Beaver, racoons, skunks, squirrels etc) urinate. Dogs can pick it up by drinking stagnant ponds or puddles, eating grass containing infected urine or even soil. It can cause liver and/or kidney failure in your dog and can be spread to you through infected urine. Luckily most of our pets are vaccinated against this disease. Choosing larger bodies or faster moving water will help decrease the chance of exposure.

  • Skin Infections

Any furred dog but especially dogs with long thick fur (Goldens are a prime example) can develop ‘hot spots’ after swimming. Because the thick fur doesn’t dry well it’s a great environment for bacterial growth to occur. This can occur from normal skin bacteria or from contaminated water. Rinse your dog with clean water after swimming and dry thoroughly to prevent this.

dog skin
  • Swimmer’s Tail

When a dog has not been conditioned to swimming and then spends a weekend swimming it can tucker out those tail muscles. When this happens the tail hangs flaccid and can be painful. The treatment is dog safe pain/anti inflammatory medications. It will most likely recur the next time they swim.

dog tail
  • GI upset

Most of our canine friends are so excited while swimming that they bounce around and ingest water. This can lead to GI upset due to ingesting bacteria.

  • Accidents

Some dogs become so obsessed with the pool. I have known a few that have jumped into covered pools and have drowned, so ensure if a pool cover is on that your pet is not left unattended if he has direct access to possibly finding himself in a tricky situation.

Written by Dr. Ashley Kirkham, DVM