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. Let’s find out what you need to know…[toc heading_levels=”2,3″ class=”have_bullets”]
We love dogs so we need to get the facts to protect them
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 illnesses (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.
How high is the risk?
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 automatic pool cleaner like this one.
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
Here’s a list of things to keep in mind that can present serious causes for water-borne sickness:
- 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.
However, that’s not an all-out sure thing: some people who don’t correctly maintain their pool may use too much clorine which can cause dogs discomfort or stomach sickness.
Where do skin irritations and red eyes come from?
According to the CDC, it’s not chlorine but a chemical called chloramine that can cause this 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.
5 Important Pool Safety Tips for Dogs – Click here
Your dog loves to swim? Great!
BUT can your pool take it? Read more here.
Your comments are welcome!
Once again an awesome post from you. My dog also likes swimming pool. We all know that swimming is a good exercise for the dog but we cannot allow them without safety. My dog has been suffering for the ear infection for a month. Now I am very conscious about it. Thanks for your informative post.
LOL, that one was a mixed breed but with quite a bit of lab – honestly you wouldn’t think he would have needed teaching. But the ocean made him nervous. We were used to taking him to the lake and then moved to an island for two years. He had never seen waves so was very nervous. My husband carried him in, and held him under the tummy off and on over the course of an afternoon. This did not happen without scratches and long hugs and gentle talk. At the end of the day he had his “sealegs” and never looked back. Again, I should stress for anyone, we always were in the water with our dogs just as we were with our kids. Always play on the safe side!
I never gave much thought to dogs in pools before. None of my dogs have ever wanted to enter the pool but are good swimmers – they like the lake and ocean. In fact we (and that is the royal “we” as it was my husband) had to teach one of them how to swim in the ocean. He just did not like the waves. We have always closely supervised them as I do know they will get tired before they come out. Still, I don’t want them in the pool.
Hi Suze, thank you. How did you teach your dog to swim? And what breed is he or she?
This is a fantastic article! I have very much enjoyed reading it and watching all of the adorable dogs in the videos. Made my evening, thank you 🙂 I do have a pool and a little dog, but no matter how much we’ve tried, she’s not as crazy about the water as we are. We’ll put her in once in a while so that she’ll cool down when it’s 100 degrees out (because she loves to be out there with us anyway), and she’ll immediately start paddling to get out. And you are correct in saying that they can become disoriented, It happens to Macie a lot! I think that Skamper Ramp will be a great investment for her safety and our peace of mind. It may get her to enjoy the pool more if she knows that she can easily spot her exit and skamper out. Thanks for all the great information you’ve shared!