Lake life is amazing with your pet by your side—plus, splashing in the water is the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day. If your summer plans include spending time at the lake with your pet, take these precautions to keep them safe in and around the water. Take a look at our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center Conroe team’s pet lake-safety tips.
#1: Assess your pet’s water comfort level
Contrary to popular belief, not all pets are natural-born swimmers. While most can doggy paddle, some struggle to stay afloat. Before taking your pet to the lake, and especially before bringing them aboard a boat, ensure they are comfortable in the water by assessing their swimming skills in a pool or shallow body of water. Some pets take to the water quickly, while others are unsure at first, but usually become more comfortable after spending some time in the water. Some pets prefer to sunbathe rather than step foot in the water, which is perfectly OK. Never force your pet to enter the water.
#2: Ensure your pet wears a life jacket
Regardless of swimming ability, your pet should always wear a life jacket when boating to keep them afloat if they go overboard. In addition, keep in mind that your pet can easily become fatigued while swimming in a large lake, and a life jacket ensures they can float safely, and keep their head above water. Your pet’s life jacket should include the following features:
- Handles — Most pets’ life jackets come with handles, so you can quickly grab your pet if they fall in the water.
- Bright color — This will help you more easily spot your pet while they are in the water.
- Form-fitting — Your pet’s life jacket should fit snugly below their neck, without restricting their breathing.
#2: Help your pet beat the heat
Although a dip in the water is a great way to cool off on a hot day, keep in mind that your pet can quickly become overheated during a lakeside day. Pets’ heatstroke signs include excessive panting, excessive drooling, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, seizures, or collapse. If left untreated, heatstroke can cause your pet’s organs to fail, and eventually lead to their death. You can help your pet avoid heatstroke and other heat-related conditions by taking the following precautions:
- Never leave your pet in a parked car — A parked car’s interior heats up quickly. Parking in the shade and rolling down the windows is not enough to keep your pet from overheating. Never leave your pet unattended in a parked vehicle.
- Keep your pet hydrated — Your pet should always have access to fresh, cool water. Bring a portable water bowl that you refill throughout the day.
- Provide your pet with shade — Set up your pet’s home base in a shady lakeside area. To escape the scorching sun while on a boat, bring a sun shade or umbrella.
- Protect your pet’s paw pads — Use the back of your hand to test the temperature of metal surfaces and pavements. The surface is too hot and can burn your pet’s paw pads if you cannot keep your hand comfortably in place for 10 seconds.
- Apply pet-friendly sunscreen — Your pet’s coat covers much of their skin, but some areas are susceptible to sunburn, such as their nose, ear tips, muzzle, eyelids, and belly. Hairless breeds and pets with light-colored coats are at a much higher sunburn risk, and may benefit from sunscreen. Remember, only use sunscreen made specifically for pets, as some human sunscreen ingredients are toxic to pets if ingested.
- Limit outdoor time — Limit your pet’s outdoor time on extremely hot, humid days, taking breaks in cool, well-ventilated areas.
#3: Prevent your pet from ingesting contaminated water
Prevent your pet from drinking lake water, which may contain pathogens, toxins, and bacteria that can make your pet ill. Instead, offer them fresh water from a portable bowl. To remove possible hazardous substances from your pet’s fur, always rinse them thoroughly after they swim in the lake.
#4: Protect your pet from boat fumes
Bring a leash, and secure your pet away from the boat’s engine. Diesel fuel odor and choppy waves can cause your pet to feel seasick, and the engine exhaust’s carbon monoxide can seriously affect your pet’s health, and can lead to death. Protect yourself and your pet from this potentially lethal gas by regularly checking the engine and generator’s exhaust system for leaks. In addition, install a carbon monoxide alarm in the boat’s cabin.
#5: Be prepared for a pet emergency
When boating on the lake, accidents can occur, so be prepared in case your pet experiences an emergency. How will you save your pet if they fall overboard? Make a plan, and ensure all passengers know what to do. In addition, keep a pet first aid kit onboard, and be prepared to perform pet CPR in case of an accident. Ensure your pet wears their collar with tags that include your current contact information, and always keep your pet on a leash while on a boat.
Hanging out at the lake with your pet is a summer delight, and by following these tips, you can keep your pet safe as they splish splash in the water. Contact our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center Conroe team to discuss additional summer safety tips, or if your pet has a lakeside health emergency.