Summer is a great time to get your pet involved in family activities. The extended daylight hours mean more time for fishing, boating and playing on the beach. Whether you are going to the seaside, a river or just staying at home by the pool, these water safety tips will help you and your pet enjoy the summer.
Keeping your pet safe by the water can take some planning. If you are going away, it’s a good idea to do any necessary training of your pet before you leave. Make sure your dog can swim. Whilst some breeds are instinctively comfortable in the water, breeds such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Corgis and Greyhounds can find it really difficult. Other breeds (such as Maltese), enjoy the water but are susceptible to arthritis and chills. Knowing your dog’s breed will help you decide what safety issues to address before you leave. It’s a good idea to consult your vet too, as they will have useful advice specific for your pet.
Oceans, rivers and pools
If your holiday spot is by a river, lake, ocean or swimming pool, there are a number of safety aspects to consider. Rivers and lakes often look safe because the water is calm, however stagnant water can carry serious diseases or be susceptible to blue-green algae. Lakes and pools are often chemically treated to a level that’s safe for humans, but unsafe for pets. The most important thing is that you know the area and its dangers. Vets in the local area should be able to advise of any danger zones.
- Watch for stingers, jellyfish and snakes. Australia has some of the most dangerous wildlife in the world. In the summer months, dogs and cats are susceptible to snake bites, stingers and jellyfish. Whilst mostly prevalent in Northern Western Australian and far north Queensland, in the heat of summer they can also be a danger in the southern states.
- Prevent beach scavenging. There are some great smelling items that wash up on or are left on the beach that can be harmful to our pets if eaten, especially blowfish (blowies). Ideally prevent your dog from eating anything unusual and train the “leave it” command before you go. However, if they do eat something you are not sure of, monitor them closely and phone your vet to see if there is anything more you need to do.
- Use life jackets. If your dog tires easily or is afraid of the water, use a life jacket. It’s a good idea to get him or her used to wearing it before you enter the water.
- Carry clean water. If your pet is thirsty enough, he or she may drink chlorinated or salt water, both of which are unsafe for pets. Carry lots of clean water and a collapsible bowl for your pet to drink from.
- Wash your pet. If your pet has been in chlorinated, salty or dirty water, it’s a good idea to wash them afterwards. This will prevent them ingesting chlorine or disease when they are grooming.
If you are taking your dog on a boat this summer, your dog’s temperament and physical condition will for the large part dictate the success of the trip. A very nervous dog may not enjoy the high speeds of a jet boat; an old dog may tire easily in the water and a dog with a tendency to get overly excited may jump overboard unexpectedly. Knowing your dog’s limits will you help you prepare safely for the trip.
- Familiarise your pet with the boat. If your boat is on a trailer, let your pet adjust to being in the boat on land. Similarly with canoes and kayaks, it’s a good idea to get your pet used to the vessel out of the water first.
- Use harnesses. To ensure your pet doesn’t fall off, harness them to the boat. This is particularly important for speedboats.
- Practice capsizing. If you are in a canoe or kayak, practice capsizing to get you both prepared for when you capsize accidentally.
- Provide shade. Like humans, pets can get sunburnt and dehydrated during the summer. It is important to ensure your pet has some shade from the sun and plenty of water. If you are on the beach, portable shade tents can act as temporary kennels. If you are on a boat, encourage your dog to stay under shade during the heat of the day.
- Arrange toilet stops. Plan ahead for how and when your pet will go to the toilet. If your dog has been trained to only go to the toilet when out walking, you may have trouble on the boat. Arrange toilet stops before boarding or re-train your pet before you go away.
- Watch for fishing hooks. When fishing, beware of your hooks and lines, particularly when casting. Dogs and cats may also get excited when you catch a fish. It is advised to keep your pet contained when you’re reeling in a catch.
By following the safety advice above, you are in good stead to keep your pet safe by the water. However it is recommended you have a safety plan ready in the unlikely case of an emergency. Carry information of a local/ emergency vet so they are easily contactable when you need them. You should also be aware of CPR and how to use it on your pet.
CPR and the DRSABC principles.
As for a human emergency, the DRSABC principles provide the foundation of pet first aid.
D - Danger. Make sure it is safe to approach your pet. Use a blanket/ towel to handle cats or a makeshift muzzle for larger dogs.
R - Response. Determine if your pet is conscious and look for any signs of movement.
S - Send for help. Ask another person to call the local vet while you assist your pet.
A - Airway. Only check the airway if your pet is unconscious. Pull the tongue out of the mouth and look for any obstructions.
B - Breathing. Watch the chest to see if it is rising and falling. If your pet is not breathing administer two breaths.
C - Compressions. After two breaths if no signs of life, commence CPR.