A sparkling swimming pool, a tennis ball and a dog or two. Fetch! – Splash. A shower of drops as the dog shakes the water off. Expectant looks.
And again! … Hours of fun.
Or is it?
Those in favor of dogs sharing the pool with people wouldn’t want to miss the play and joy that comes with it.
Pure quality time – as simple as that.
They will also argue that dog swimming is a good, low-impact exercise. And they may even tell a story about a family dog rescuing a toddler from drowning.
But not everyone is a big fan. Those who don’t want pets in the pool usually have good reasons, too.
A dog may be man’s best friend and more often than not a very important member of the family but they are animals. And for some people some places, like the pool, should not be shared with a dog for hygienic as well as for safety reasons.
So, what’s really important to know about pools and dogs? Are there any risks you should know about? Can all dogs swim? Is pool water safe for dogs? Read on so you can make sure you can have all the fun and keep your pooch safe, too.
Swimming Pool Water for Dogs and Humans
Dog owners often wonder whether chemicals in swimming pool water can harm their dog. It’s an interesting question revealing their mindset and care about their dog.
But could dogs in the pool actually cause Recreational Water Diseases (RWI) in people?
Swimmers, people as well as dogs contribute to water contamination. Dogs will bring with them more hair and potentially more faecal matter. Could this lead to any infectious diseases? And what can you do about it?
Depending on size and breed a dog’s contribution to water contamination may equal anything from 10 to 50 or even 100 times that of a human.
However, as alarming as this sounds, most of the debris can be filtered out and most harmful bacteria will be killed in chlorinated water, even when the chlorine level is as low as 1ppm (1 part per million).
Just to be clear, chlorine is the most time-tested, cost-effective and reliable way to kill most (but not all) germs that could cause infectious diseases. Naturally, this doesn’t happen instantly. If water is contaminated it can take anywhere between a few minutes and a few hours until water is completely safe again.
However, as with a lot of things in life, it’s useful to balance benefits and risks.
Yes, there may sometimes be a slight chance of an infection, but the overall risk of infection from sharing a pool with a dog is very low, especially if the pool is well maintained.
Washing well before swimming and making sure the dog’s coat is not stained with faecal matter will make a big change in the quality of the water.
But even when taking precautions, as mentioned before, a dog will introduce more contamination compared to a person and it’s best to monitor and adjust chlorine and pH-levels more frequently and clean the pool which you can do manually or use an automated pool cleaner.
More than anything, one of the most important rules to remember is that anyone – people and dogs – should not enter the water for two weeks after a bout of diarrhea!
Safe Pool Water – Checklist
- Sick dogs (just like people) don’t belong in the pool.
- Dogs who shed infectious agents like salmonella and Giardia must be kept out of the pool.
- Only allow dogs without faecal staining on their coat to enter the pool.
- No pool for two weeks after a case of diarrhea!
Is Chlorinated Pool Water Bad for your Dog?
On the contrary, chlorine is what makes pool water safe because it kills germs.
While there is no pool water that is 100% safe, a well-maintained pool is very much as close as you can get to a safe swimming environment.
Normal chlorine levels in swimming pools will not harm your dog. The chlorine is so diluted and its concentration simply not high enough to cause any irritations; neither externally on the skin and the eyes nor internally.
Where do skin irritations and red eyes come from?
According to the CDC, it’s not chlorine but a chemical called chloramine which can cause that kind of effect. Chloramine can form when body waste such as urine and sweat combine with chlorine and then leave the water as a gas.
However, this is only a concern if the concentration of chloramine is high in the air above the pool water, i.e. it’s very unlikely to be a problem in an outside and hence open space, residential pool.
Even though there are differences in human and canine skin they can equally have rashes, itches, infections and skin irritations. It’s best to rinse off any pool water just like people take a shower after swimming.
Some dogs may have more ear infections when swimming regularly. However, this is not caused by chlorine but prolonged dampness in their ears. Your vet can advise you about a suitable drying solution to be used after swimming.
Very frequent visits to a pool can dry out skin and hair. A protective conditioner applied before the swim will reduce the drying-out effect of salt or chlorinated pool water.
In addition, spray your dog with a hose after swimming to rinse off as much of the chemicals as possible. Then towel dry and spray with conditioner and he’ll look and smell just perfect.
Dogs in the Pool – Safety for People
Opponents of dog swimming will point out how dogs can get carried away when playing and retrieving toys and balls from the pool. As a friend recently put it:
“Dogs take no prisoners when in the pool!”
It can indeed get rowdy very quickly. What’s fun for one party though can be very scary for nearby toddlers and kids, especially when they are being held onto, dunked and accidentally scratched by a dog.
The best way to keep animals and people happy is to make sure a dog only enters the pool with permission so the dog owner has control at all times.
He should also be well trained to keep away from people when in the water, especially from little kids and strangers.
Lastly, when sharing a pool with other families, ask first whether they are okay with your dog in the pool.
Your dog loves to swim?