WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. - Your water-loving dog probably digs the hot weather, that is if he or she has access to a body of fresh water. But according to Steve Kasanofsky, a veterinarian at Yorktown Animal Hospital in Yorktown Heights, it's also time to think about your pet's safety in, around and near the water.
Contrary to popular belief, not every dog knows how to swim – not even the doggie paddle, said Kasanofsky. “For some dogs it is a natural ability, but some just won’t do it.”
Even so-called “water dogs,” such as Labrador retrievers, can be panicked enough by water that they “just won’t swim and might actually sink.”
“Never assume a dog can swim,” said Kasanofsky, adding that the safer approach is to slowly introduce them to the water to see how they react “and what they are capable of.”
But many dogs greet a day of water sports with unleashed enthusiasm. In fact, it's up to dogs' "humans" to be mindful of factors that could hinder four-legged fun, particularly in multi-purpose recreational water holes. The ASPCA cautions keeping dogs away from fishing lines, lures, hooks and bait.
If you’re staying by the pool, safety is still a priority. Kasanofsky said, “The problem with pools is that, while they are easy to get in to, they are not always easy for a dog to exit.” This, he says, could be a serious problem if the animal is unsupervised.
Kasanofsky admits he is “not a fan” of long days at the beach for pets, having treated too many animals for heat exhaustion and heatstroke. He said if pet owners do plan to spend a prolonged period of time at the water with their dogs, they should make sure to provide an area of shade, such as a popup tent. Also, he said, bring along plenty of fresh water to keep them cool and hydrated.
Some dogs, he said, are more susceptible to overheating than others, a state that can make them extremely ill, or even cause death.
And don’t let those coats of fur fool you, as you should be wary of the sun, said Kasanofsky. “Pets do get sunburned, particularly on the ears and nose, though other areas can be sunburned, especially in thin-coated dogs.” He adds that pet sun protection is available at stores and online, but owners should consult their veterinarians before applying to pets.
At day’s end, said Kasanofsky, “Be sure to rinse their paws and their body -- if possible -- with cool or tepid (not ice cold) water. And wipe off any remaining sand off their bodies, particularly that which might accumulate by the ears and folds of skin.”
For a dog, there are few things more fun than a day near the water, except of course for a day of frolicking in the snow, or a day of hiking in the mountains, or a day of... Well, it is a dog's life, after all.