On a hot summer day, one of the best ways to cool off is to jump into your backyard swimming pool! But is it safe to let your dog join you? Well, the short answer is: Yes, with supervision, it is typically safe for a dog to swim in a well-balanced chlorinated or saltwater swimming pool. Of course, do not let your dog drink from the pool, but otherwise, yes, overall, it is safe.
The long answer?
There are a few swimming pool dangers and considerations that all pet owners should be aware of before allowing their dog or a guest’s dog in or near the pool! With that being said, here are five of the most common backyard swimming pool pet dangers and how to prevent them!
1. Accidental Drownings
Unfortunately, it is very possible for a dog, or any outdoor pet, to drown in a backyard swimming pool. Even dogs who are seasoned swimmers can drown because they instinctively go to the sides of the pool, but then they aren’t able to figure out how to get out of the pool. It’s a Minnesota law that all outdoor pools must be enclosed by a fence, but there are a few other things pet owners can do to prevent this tragedy:
- Never assume all dogs “just know” how to swim. Take the time to teach your dog how to swim and how to safely exit the pool – whether they use the stairs or a pet-friendly pool ladder or ramp. If you invite guests to your pool and they bring their dog, it’s also important to teach your guest’s dog how to exit the pool.
- Purchase a dog life jacket that properly fits your dog. It’s also a great idea to get a life jacket with a handle so you can easily grab and lift your dog out of the pool if necessary.
- Invest in a pool alarm system that senses motion in the water. In addition to saving pets, a pool alarm is also a must-have for families with small children.
- Use an automatic pool cover so it’s quick and easy to cover the pool if your dogs are outside and you have to quickly step inside.
- Speaking of pool covers, many pets mistake pool covers for solid surfaces. It’s important to train your dog (or any other outdoor pet) to stay away from the pool cover, especially if your cover will not support your pet’s weight. Try leash-training, basic commands, and clicker training for positive training approaches or ask a professional dog trainer for their best tips!
2. Water Intoxication
Water intoxication is when a dog swallows too much water and the sodium levels in the blood become too diluted. While this is rare, it does happen and if not promptly treated, it can be fatal. For saltwater pools, there is also an increased risk of salt poisoning if your pet drinks a large amount of the water. The best way to prevent your dog from drinking pool water is to:
- Provide fresh water in your pet’s water dish outside of the pool.
- Monitor your pet closely and if you notice they are lapping up water or frequently urinating, then it’s time to force your dog to take a break from the pool.
3. More Bacteria in the Pool
We love our dogs, but let’s face it, they aren’t the cleanest! The hair, dander, dirt, fecal matter, pollen, and more will all be in your pool water. This tip is more for the humans because everything that’s on your dog could potentially get the humans in the pool sick. For example, if your dog has fecal matter on their rear, this could get in the water and if a human swallows the water, they could get E. coli! Obviously, no one wants that so the best ways to prevent a dirty pool is to:
- Properly maintain your pool and correctly adjust your pool’s pH levels. Keep in mind that the added bacteria from your dog may throw off this balance.
- Ensure your pool’s filtration system is working properly and regularly clean the filter. To decrease the amount of dog hair in the filter, de-shed or brush your dog before allowing them in the pool!
- Manually clean the pool after every use.
4. Irritated Skin
A well-maintained pool’s chemicals should be diluted enough that it won’t be toxic for your dog to swim in, but the chemicals may cause redness, itching, or flaking to your dog’s skin. The best way to prevent a skin irritation is to:
- Quite simply, don’t allow your dog in the pool if they have a reaction after swimming.
- Gently hose down or bathe your dog after each swimming session.
- Consult with your family veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary dermatologist if your dog’s skin irritation worsens.
5. Pool Cleaning Chemicals
If your dog gets into your stock of concentrated pool cleaning chemicals, it can be extremely dangerous. Chlorine tablets, muriatic acid, brominating tablets, and similar products are poisonous and if swallowed, the acid can cause ulcers in your pet’s mouth and throat. To prevent this potential hazard, pet owners should:
- Store all pool chemicals in a safe and secure location.
- Always keep pets inside or in a separate, closed-off space while cleaning and maintaining the pool.
Whether you just recently became a pool owner or have had a swimming pool for years, we hope your family considers these potential pet dangers and the steps to keep your pets and your family safe in the pool. If you have any questions about maintaining a pet-friendly pool, consult with a pool maintenance company to learn their best tips and equipment recommendations!