To swim or not to swim

Many dogs of all sizes and ages love to swim and with the weather being so good its temping to allow our dogs into the rivers and lakes. But it’s worth being mindful of a few things before you let your dog to go in for a dip to avoid you getting into any difficulties.

Swimming can be great form of exercise, especially if your dog is used to regular swimming. BUT never force your dog into the water, particularly if they don’t seem keen as although it may seem like a great way to cool down or have fun, your dog will only want to venture in if they’re feeling totally comfortable about it.


During the later months of the summer when there hasn’t been much rainfall for some time, blue-green algae can form on the surface of lakes, ponds, and other areas where there is no free flow of water. These algae often contain a group of bacteria called cyanobacteria, which can cause severe illness in dogs in the form of vomiting, diarrhoea, breathing difficulties, and even collapsing due to weakness. So if you come across a body of water such as this, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and prevent your dog’s going in it.

If you do come across a suitable lake or river make sure to watch out for reeds and debris as this can prove to be a real hazard for dogs to negotiate. Look for areas where there is a shallow entry and exit, free from such things as this will be the safest point for them to enter. Uneven surfaces on the bottom of the river or lake can be hazardous too, so where possible find somewhere where the water is clear enough to see the bottom, this way you can be sure it’s clear of sharp debris and not too deep.


Water temperature is another factor to consider especially if you have an older dog. It may feel hot outside, but the temperature of the water will be far lower than the air temperature. In the UK, our rivers and lakes take a long time to heat up over the summer months and even then, they continue to be up to 10 degrees lower than the average air temperature. Younger, fitter dogs won’t notice the difference as much, but an older dog definitely will, and in extreme cases it can even cause them to go into shock.


Cardiovascular fitness isn’t always thought about with dogs but if they’re not used to this form of exercise they can fatigue quite quickly, which can greatly affect their ability to swim safely. So don’t expect your dog to be able to endlessly free swim on the first try, as it can be very tiring for them and can even lead to them getting into difficulty before you realise.

Finally, older dogs and dogs with any on-going medical conditions should ideally avoid swimming in the open as it is too easy for them to overexert or move awkwardly and cause themselves more injury, even with just a quick swim. Swimming can be really beneficial for many different conditions, but this is best done in the safe environment of a hydrotherapy centre where your dog can be assessed for suitability first and carefully monitored throughout by a qualified hydrotherapists in order to keep your dog safe and well.

So keep these things in mind when considering taking your dog for a swim so that they can fully enjoy having a splash and you can feel confident they’re doing so safely.

Enjoy your weekends,


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