Can Your Pet Swim?

By Dr . Joi Sutton|2014-04-25T10:57:34-04:00Updated: November 15th, 2012|Pet Diabetes, Pet Newsletter|0 Comments

I have always loved the water. My parents got us swimming early in life because my father had nearly drowned as a child. My mom dutifully took us kids to the local municipal swimming pool every week.

For me it just feels good being in the water. I was even a synchronized swimmer and swam in the “10 and under” age category with the Oregon City Synchronettes! We had matching yellow daisy swimsuits and Brill cream in our hair. I specifically remember a “team routine” to Maurice Chevalier singing, “Thank Heaven For Little Girls”. I laugh when I think about the 70s.

When I was a kid I thought only rich people had swimming pools! Down here in South Florida, they are commonplace. Even my humble little Florida fixer-upper has a swimming pool. When I moved in, my neighbor suggested that I made sure all my cats could swim. My cats don’t like being wet, so swimming lessons were out. I decided they would take a plunge. Tutu, my cat who is too smart for her own good, needed a gentle push from behind when she and I were sitting at the pool’s edge. Twinkle willingly came into my arms when I was in the pool, and then I lowered her into the water. The girls knew I had played a dirty trick on them. Tatoo (who isn’t a rocket scientist) just figured he had somehow lost balance and fallen in after I nudged him into the pool with my ankle. Tatoo exited the pool like an Olympian! Tutu gracefully swam to the edge and climbed out of the pool. Then she flashed me a dirty look. Twinkle, my pudgy Samoan cat, had good buoyancy and cleverly thought to swim to the pool stairs to climb out. I redirected her away from the stairs to make sure she could pull herself out from the wall. She gave a little grunt at the end, but exited the pool successfully. This is the part where the legal team suggests not trying this at home. As a former college lifeguard, I was at the ready to rescue each cat! Funny, they don’t go as close to the water’s edge as they used to.

Whether you live near a lake or river or swimming pool, there are safety measures you can take to protect your pet. Some dogs really like the water, and with a bit of coaxing during nice weather you may simply teach your pet to swim. Of course, swimming lessons on a sunny day and warm water make it more fun and improve the chances of your dog enjoying the water. A gently sloped water’s edge can foster confidence. Going into the water with your pet or tossing a toy for retrieval can make it a real party for your dog.

Some breeds wouldn’t dream of getting into the water but enjoy being at the water’s edge or in a boat. These pets might be good candidates for life jackets. Most pet life jackets have a handle on the top to pluck your sweetie out of the drink should an accident happen. Very sporty water dogs would also benefit from flotation wear during their water adventures. My neighbors’ dog, Rudy, is an English bulldog. That’s the breed that is all over the Internet riding on skate boards. Rudy goes out on their wave-runner all the time, wearing his life jacket. Of course, one of the humans has to steer. In South Florida, it is fun to watch all the paddle boarders on the Intracoastal and in the Atlantic. It’s not uncommon to see these folks paddle with their dog on the board.

The simple answer is to never leave your pet by the water unsupervised. For homes with pools, barriers and gates can prevent access to the pool. Alarms can be triggered when such gates open. There are wristbands that trigger immersion alarms for children. These same wristbands can be placed on a pet’s collar and the alarm can be placed around a pool or taken on a boat or a camping trip.

Regardless of your situation, be safe whenever your pet takes a plunge.

NOTE: Consult your Veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.

About the Author: Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work though Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida. Connect with Dr. Joi on LinkedIn

Leave A Comment

Go to Top