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How to Keep Pets Safe Around the Pool

Advice for keeping your dog or cat out of danger

By Ian McConachie

Any pet owner will tell you that their animals are a part of their family and welcome guests at any summer pool party or barbecue. In the midst of all that family fun, safety should still be a top priority.

Safe swimming for dogs

Pools can be great for dogs who love to go for a swim, especially on a hot summer day. There are a few advantages of dogs going for a dip with their owners in the backyard pool—it helps to keep them cool and is a great source of exercise—but there are many safety considerations dog owners should keep in mind.

Many breeds are naturals in the water and quite adept at swimming. However, even the strongest swimmers should fall under the same rules as children. Never leave your dog unsupervised in a pool or any other body of water (e.g. lake, pond or river). For this reason, it is important to fence off your pool from your pet so they can not get there without human supervision.

Furthermore, not all breeds are good swimmers. In fact, some dogs, such as the pug or bulldog, are not naturally keen on water and are not natural swimmers, due mostly to their weight distribution and mass. These dogs should avoid all water that is deeper than their chest height.

It is important to be especially diligent in watching puppies and older dogs around the pool. Puppies may take naturally to water if it is part of their breed, but they still need to be closely monitored for signs of fatigue or distress. Older dogs have less energy; if they have medical conditions, they can lose their balance and risk falling into the pool.

Teaching your pet pool safety

If you have a pool, have recently gotten a new puppy and intend to let the puppy swim in the pool, it is a great idea to teach the dog some basic pool safety. You will need to ensure there is a way for the dog to easily get out of the pool and teach them how to use it. If your pool has built-in stairs the dog can use, that's great. If you don't have any easy access built in, you may want to purchase a ramp they can use to easily get out of the pool on their own.

You should never throw a dog into a pool. Even if the dog has been in the pool before and is adept at swimming, it could very likely be traumatic for the animal and could lead to panic while in the water. Also never submerge your animal or play roughly with it in the pool, as this behaviour could also lead to panic and fear.

Keeping your cat safe

If you have a cat, it will probably instinctually avoid a pool as most cats are hesitant to get wet. If you have an outdoor cat, the best way to ensure they do not get into the pool is to install a floating pool alarm, which will sound if the surface is disturbed.

The best advice is to keep your animal away from the pool when it is not in use. A fence with a locking gate is an ideal solution to ensure your animal does not wander into the pool area when they are not supposed to be there.

Protecting your pet from pool chemicals

A big part of owning a pool is the maintenance, which inevitably involves cleaning with chemicals such as chlorine. It is important to remember that dogs should never drink chlorinated water. Ensure your dog has a supply of fresh water nearby, both to avoid the temptation and to keep them hydrated. You also need to make sure your chemical mix in the pool is correct. If you use too much chlorine, it will upset your dogs eyes; if you use too little, green algae can occur and make your dog ill. When in doubt, consult a pool maintenance professional about your chemical use.

Even if your chemical content is spot-on, chlorine can still cause problems for your pets. As with people, chlorine can make your dog's skin itch if it is not washed off after he or she leaves the pool. Use a clean supply of water, such as a garden hose, to wash your animal off. This will rinse its fur and skin of most of the chlorine, reducing the risk of skin irritation, not to mention lessen the risk of the dog licking its fur and accidentally ingesting chlorine residue.

Dogs are curious creatures who tend to be interested in everything around them. They are usually eager and want to sniff and explore, so make sure the chemicals you use in your pool are safety stored away in a pool house, shed or garage so the dog can't get near them. Even a small taste of those potent cleaners can make your dog quite ill.

Pet CPR

The best precaution you can take to protect your furry friend is to take a pet CPR and first aid course. This is especially encouraged this for pet owners with pools.

As fun as the pool can be for pets, accidents do happen; being able to resuscitate your pet if needed will help you prevent those tragedies from occurring.

Ian McConachie is senior communicator with the Toronto Humane Society. He can be reached via e-mail at imcconachie@torontohumanesociety.com.

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