Water Safety Guide for Your Lab

By Kait Sawyer Hanson

Fewer things are more synonymous than Labrador retrievers and water. Most owners understand the pain of having to drag your Lab from the water when it’s time to go home!

As warmer weather creeps in, it is important to remember some water safety tips for your furry friend to make sure it’s an enjoyable season for everyone.

Cooling off in a pool is undoubtedly a great way to beat the heat, but be careful when allowing your Lab to go for a swim in one.

It may seem shocking, but do not assume your Lab knows how to swim. While rare, not all Labs have mastered the “doggie paddle”, which makes drowning a very real possibility.

If you are introducing your Lab to water for the first time, start small and ease your way into things. Consider a less-intimidating, shallow backyard pool for first time swimmers and never throw your dog into the water for their first time assuming they will “know what to do.” If your Lab knows how to swim, be aware of the amount of time he or she spends in the water and never leave them unattended.

Be sure your four-legged companion knows how to safely exit the pool, as a panicked dog could claw at the sides, cutting their paw pads and nail beds, and always rinse pets off with fresh water after swimming or splashing. The chlorine, salt and bacteria in pools and other bodies of water can be harmful.

Heat stroke is also a hidden danger of pool time, because while the water keeps the external body temperature down, constant exertion of energy can drive up the internal temperature to dangerous levels.

If you are kicking back at the beach for the day, watch out for sharp shells or broken pieces of coral that can cut paw pads and be cognizant of jellyfish both beached and in the water—your Lab doesn’t know how to look out for these things! Additionally, be aware of the tide schedule and never let your pet swim out far enough to be swept into the current.

Just like you or I, swimming can cause pure exhaustion or body cramps in Labs. If your water adventure takes you somewhere without an easy exit (think open water boating on a lake or ocean), it would be smart to invest in a life vest for your pooch!

Once your Lab is done swimming, the dangers do not disappear.

If your dog is done swimming for the day, but you are not, make sure there is a shady area nearby where he or she can cool off, as well as access to fresh water. Not only does drinking salt water and pool water cause health issues, your dog will dehydrate more quickly during periods of high activity in warmer weather.

After any period in the water, always make sure to dry your Lab’s ears thoroughly. Leftover moisture from water activity sets the ideal setting for an array of bacterial infections that can cause serious damage if left unnoticed or untreated. Using an over-the-counter ear cleanser after each romp is a great way to ensure clean, healthy ears. Check with your veterinarian for their best recommendation.

Keep in mind that all Labs, particularly puppies, should be fully vaccinated before swimming, especially in public areas. Parasites, like Giardia, lurk in water and can make your dog sick, turning a day of fun into an expensive trip to the veterinarian.

While there are many things to keep in mind when taking your dog swimming or around water, this guide is not meant to scare you away from water activity! One of the very best aspects of enjoying life with a Lab is being able to partake in outdoor activities together. Using these water safety tips ensures a happy, healthy summer for the whole family.

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