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Water safety

Helen: Hi Jo.

Jo: Hi Helen!

Helen: Thanks for joining us again. We’re in a lovely setting, we’re by a beautiful river. What are the most common accidents and problems that dogs could have when they’re around bodies of water?

Jo: When dogs are around water, you’ll usually find that there are two reactions from dogs, either they love it or hate it. A bit like Marmite. If they hate it and they don’t want to go near it then you shouldn’t force them to go near it.
The over-exuberant ones jumping into the water can’t actually see the hazards and you can’t see the hazards that are on the floor of the river, ocean or the pond that they’re going in. For example, if some people had a BBQ near the river and a few drinks the night before and things got out of hand and a bottle got thrown in and smashed on the river bed, you wouldn’t be able to see that and neither would your dog. So, you have to be very careful about that.

Helen: So, what are the other common accidents that happen around water?

Jo: Predominantly, the drowning side of things is obviously something you need to be really vigilant of. There is also secondary drowning which can occur between one and 48 hours after a dog has been in the water. That is when the dog has inhaled the water and it’s actually gone into the lungs.

Helen: What sort of symptoms should you be looking out for with secondary drowning?

Jo: With secondary drowning, you need to be looking out for:

  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy

If a dog did come out of the water and vomited or was coughing profusely, you’d want to get on the phone with the vets as quickly as possible and get that dog seen.

Helen: Is there anything you could do until you got your dog to the vets?

Jo: It’s really dependant on the individual case that the vet will be able to advise on the specific scenario that you’re being faced with. Keeping the dog quiet and as comfortable as possible until you’ve received specific veterinary advice.
Another hazard that you need to be aware of when taking your dog by water is other wildlife that might be around. For example, with a river setting like this, you could have swans with their young. They can get really protective of their young and it’s not fair on the swans to suddenly have what they perceive as a hazard with a dog coming in towards them. They will also feel that they need to protect their young and can gang up and attack your dog quite viciously.
Being mindful of the environment that you’re taking your dog in and risk assessing at all time to make sure it’s safe for your dog and any wildlife in the area.

Helen: Should there be any extra first aid kit, accessories or useful tools that you should take with you when you take your dog to the sea, river or pond?

Jo: So, you can get all sorts of buoyancy aids for dogs. However, when a dog is going into water, even when it’s not going into water, I would always advise having it on a harness with two points of contact for on land so that it balances the dog when you’re walking it. But, in a river, for example, if you’ve got a dog rushing in and it gets itself into trouble and you need to get the dog out, you could use something like a fishing rod or a long branch for example to hook onto the harness. Whereas, if the dog is just wearing a collar you haven’t got as much scope to get the dog out successfully.

About Jo Middleton

Dog first aid trainer and founder of Dog First Aid Franchise Ltd – an organisation with a veterinary team boasting over 50 years experience.