Supervised time in a pool is a smart way to help dogs keep cool. This handsome fellow floats in the bone-shaped pool at Very Important Paws resort in West Palm Beach. Photo provided
By Arden Moore
Welcome to the dog days of summer. Hot, humid days in Palm Beach County can put your dog at risk for heat stroke, especially on afternoon walks.
That’s why I’m an advocate of the dog paddle — swimming — a safer exercise alternative to walks, runs or hikes when the heat is on.
As a master certified pet first-aid/CPR instructor with Pet First Aid 4U, I make it my mission to educate pet parents on the heat dangers to dogs. The early signs: heavy panting, bright red gums and sweaty paws. If your dog is leaving wet paw marks on a sidewalk during a walk on a dry day, he is overheated.
The immediate relief option is to dip his paws in cool water — but never use ice cold water, because the temperature extreme can trigger shock. Always bring a bottle of water because in a pinch, you can make a spare doggy poop bag into a water bowl to dip in each of your dog’s paws. Ah, instant heat relief!
The safe exercise option on hot, hot days is swimming in a safe body of water. That can include the dog-welcoming beaches along the Atlantic Ocean, lakes, pools — or even a tub. Avoid rivers with strong currents or keep your dog on a long line.
Never let your dogs swim in small ponds constructed to drain water from housing developments, because they contain a lot of lawn chemicals. And do not let your dog swim in ponds at golf courses, as they house harmful parasites.
Team members at Very Important Paws, a dog resort in West Palm Beach, added a bone-shaped pool a few years ago because they recognize the appeal — and exercise benefits — of offering a safe water play spot for their doggy guests.
On an average pool shift, there can be up to 20 dogs making a fun splash. But before any dog puts a toe in the pool, he has been tested for temperament and his swimming skills assessed by the staff, says Will Corrente, co-founder of the dog resort.
“We purposely designed this saltwater pool to be dog safe as it is only 2 feet deep in the center — a depth in which most dogs can stand and keep their heads above water. The shallow ends are 6 inches deep,” says Corrente. “We have two attendants always there to supervise and all of our staff is trained in pet first aid.”
Two giant umbrellas provide shade. The resort also books canine pool parties and donates to more than 30 pet charities in the area. Learn more at www.veryimportantpets.com.
Corrente understands and appreciates the need for safe water play for dogs. Coco, his black Labrador, has enjoyed wading in the Intracoastal Waterway since she was adopted as a pup from the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League nearly 15 years ago.
Coco is not a fan of traditionally designed pools, especially the one in Corrente’s backyard.
“She will step into the VIP pool, but jumping into a pool and not touching the bottom of the pool with her paws gives her some anxiety,” he says. “So, I take her to the Intracoastal.”
The health benefits of swimming are immense for all types of dogs in all levels of health, including canines coping with arthritis, post-surgical recovery or packing a few extra pounds.
That’s because water provides natural buoyancy, far kinder on the joints of dogs than long walks on concrete sidewalks.
No matter where your dog makes a splash, always rinse him off in clean water. For regular water lovers, book an appointment with your veterinarian to have your dog receive vaccines to protect against parasites and giardia.
Where are your favorite water sites and activities for your dog? Please post and share with our readers at www.thecoastalstar.com.
Arden Moore, founder of www.FourLeggedLife.com, is an animal behavior consultant, editor, author, professional speaker and master certified pet first aid instructor. Each week, she hosts the popular Oh Behave! show on www.PetLifeRadio.com. Learn more by visiting www.fourleggedlife.com.
Water safety tips
Size up your dog. Not every dog is a four-legged Michael Phelps capable of swimming with confidence. Dogs less apt to swim well include breeds with short legs and long backs (corgis and dachshunds), big-chested breeds (bulldogs) and breeds with short snouts (pugs).
Dab on the sunblock. To prevent sunburn, select dog-safe, waterproof, quick-drying and non-greasy sunscreen. Apply on your dog’s nose tip, ears, abdomen and legs. Chemicals in sunscreens made for people contain harmful chemicals to dogs.
Use praise and treats to build up your dog’s introduction to water activities. Start with fun walks along the shore and allow your dog’s paws to get wet. Never toss a dog into a pool or body of water. Pair up the water activity with your dog’s favorite floatable toy.
Encourage him to enter the water to fetch the toy. These toys need to float and be easy to grab. Teach your dog how to safely enter and exit pools. Start in the shallow end by the steps. Teach him using treats and praise that this is his safe zone and to use the steps to exit the pool.
Be your dog’s lifeguard. Always supervise your dog whenever he is in the water. Install a doggy-proof gate around your pool to block your dog’s access when you are not around.
End the water activity before your dog becomes tired. Some dogs are such pleasers or so motivated by fetching balls that they won’t stop and face an increased risk of drowning.
Look for signs of tiredness, such as your dog’s breathing heavily, seeming to sit lower in the water or taking more time to return to you.
Fit your dog with a canine life vest that helps him stay afloat.
For novice canine swimmers, always support their midsections and hindquarters in the water until they get the hang of paddling.
Pack extra water. Bring fresh water to the beach to prevent your dog from becoming dehydrated or sick from accidentally drinking saltwater. Always thoroughly rinse your dog’s coat after a swim.
Be your dog’s best health ally. Enroll in a pet first-aid class that helps you learn how to perform CPR and rescue breathing.