July 21, 2021
Water Safety and The Dog Days of Summer
By LG Nixon
We wait all winter for those sultry days we fondly refer to as the Dog Days of Summer.
This odd term from the Greek meaning “scorching” and may have originated from Alpha Canis Majoris, (Sirius, the Dog Star), and its position in Canis Major’s constellation. Sirius, coincidentally, rises and sets with the sun during its one- to two-month interval between July and September. Typically, these are the hottest months of the year for the northern hemisphere.
The early Egyptians used the arrival of Sirius to predict the time of the Nile’s flood season, and the early Greek, Roman, and Egyptian astronomers believed the appearance of this very bright star rising with the sun brought the intense heat and droughts of summer, and bad luck.
The Dog Days of Summer may have you thinking about water. Whatever watersport you may enjoy together, whether it’s boating, swimming, or paddle boarding, be sure to keep your pet safe. A few rules to remember will enhance your day in the water:
Have patience: If your dog is unsure about the water, let him explore it independently under your supervision. Please don’t throw him in the water. It can cause anxiety and make him scared of the water. Instead, gently introduce him to shallow water or the shallow end of the pool. Many dogs are natural swimmers, but many more are not. You can teach him to swim on your own but enlisting the help of a trainer would be helpful.
Provide fresh water: Pools have chemicals, the sea is salty, and river, pond, or lake waters typically contain bacteria from wildlife feces and decaying organics, and algae. While these unique water bowls are enticing, they can make your dog sick. Always provide fresh, clean drinking water to keep your pet refreshed and hydrated.
Stay alert: never leave your pet unattended near water. While your dog may enjoy the water and know how to swim, he can’t swim for long, and if he falls into a pool or lake and can’t get out, your pet will drown in just minutes. If you have a pool, teach him to climb the ladder or provide an access ramp out of the pool. We recommend a life jacket as part of his summer water gear. If you and your pet will be spending a lot of time in the pool, doggie goggles can protect his eyes from the pool chemicals and reflected sun rays.
Preventive measures: It’s worth saying again: While many dogs can swim, they can’t swim for long. Some dogs have low body fat, or are heavily muscled, both of which make it difficult to float, tire easily, and cold water can quickly zap their energy. Dogs with short legs, short, squared faces, or dogs with thick undercoats or heavy coats are not good swimmers.
The right life jacket can save your pet’s life whenever they are in the water; their design keeps your pet buoyant, visible, and easily retrieved. There are a few things to look for in a life vest:
Fit: It must fit properly for the vest to do its job. Too large, and the pet may slip out of it, and too small, it will be uncomfortable for your pet to move freely.
Rescue grab handles: These are essential for getting a grip on your buddy. They can also help support an older pet getting in and out of the water.
Reflective piping and bright colors: They increase visibility.
Underbelly buoyancy panels: Some vests have only adjustable straps. The preferred vest should have under-belly buoyancy panels and chest wraps with adjustable straps for the right fit. Some manufacturers offer a detachable pillow to hold his head up in case of a long delay in the water. The underbelly panels also help insulate his body against low water temps.
Known as the Safety Turtle, this water alarm attaches to the pet’s collar and instantly activates when your pup is in the water. The base station will continue to sound an alarm until you rescue your pet and reset the base station. The company has kits for children as well.
Before you go, please remember:
® Dogs must pant to cool their internal temperatures through evaporative cooling. Your pet will quickly overheat if the air is warm and humid. Choose a cool spot in the shade.
® Never leave your pet in a vehicle. Temperatures rapidly increase within minutes and put your pet in danger. If your pet is panting, anxious, or disoriented, get to a cool environment quickly and cover his feet with a cool wet towel to slowly lower his body temperature. Do Not cover the pet with a wet towel. Sudden temperature changes are dangerous. Provide cool water but monitor so the pet doesn’t drink it too quickly.
® Please be aware of the undertow when playing in the surf. It’s extremely dangerous for both you and your pet.
® After a dip in the pool, the lake, or the pond, be sure to rinse or shampoo your buddy. The chemicals and bacteria can irritate his skin or can still cause an illness.
Now, go enjoy those Dog Days of Summer!
PetMD.com reference article—Dogs and Water Safety
AKC.org article—Best Dog Life Jackets for Water Safety
Dog.com products—water safety vests
Safetyturtle.com—products, water safety