Is It Okay for Your Dog to Swim in the Ocean?

Picture of a dog in the water with a stick

In the dog days of summer, everyone feels the heat! When the temperatures are a-rising, planning a trip to the beach seems like an excellent idea, and of course, the whole family wants Fido to come along! While many beaches do permit dogs to enjoy their shorelines and water, conscientious owners wonder what types of water are safe for dogs to swim in. If you are headed to a saltwater beach, is it safe for your dog to join you in the ocean?

Important Considerations

Typically, a romp in the ocean is actually safer for your dog than a dip in freshwater. Why is this? Freshwater pools often stagnate and under extremely humid conditions can also grow blue and green algae which is toxic to dogs. The ocean’s natural brine actually forms a layer of protection against bacteria, ensuring the water remains a safe environment for dogs to enjoy.

However, just as with humans, dogs get thirsty on a hot day, and not knowing the difference between the water in his dog dish at home and the water he is standing in, Fido just might decide to lap up some saltwater in an effort to quench his thirst. While swimming in saltwater is perfectly safe for dogs, drinking it is not. Saltwater, consumed in any amount, can cause serious health effects in your dog including dehydration, nausea, vomiting, and even extremely loose stools. To ensure your dog has access to a cool drink when needed, owners should always travel with bottled water.

While drinking saltwater can be harmful for our dogs, swimming in it can actually be beneficial for Fido’s coat and skin, depending upon your dog’s breed. Certain dog breeds were bred to thrive and work in water. Their coats are designed to repel water. However, dogs who are known to possess double coats can suffer ill effects from repeated exposure to saltwater. The water can become trapped between these dogs’ layers of coat causing an overgrowth of bacteria which can lead to itchiness and skin conditions. To protect against this problem, owners should take care to rinse their dogs with fresh water after a swim in the ocean. Sunscreen can also provide a barrier of protection from the salt’s potentially caustic effects.

Another factor to consider before taking Fido to a saltwater beach area is what the water conditions are like and whether or not your dog can swim. Certain bodies of water can be affected by strong riptides or currents which would befall even the strongest of swimmers. If your dog has never been in the ocean before, it is best to choose to visit the beach on a mild day when there is little wind and even less current in the water for him to battle. It is important to pay attention to any beach warnings to avoid any potential disasters.

Though many dogs will not wade out beyond their comfort level, many will also lose their bearings when in hot pursuit of a stick or ball. Owners should take care to bear in mind the current before throwing an object into the ocean for their dogs to retrieve.

Also dogs with short legs or snub-nosed faces can find it challenging to keep their heads above water. This can lead to breathing issues and difficulty staying afloat.

But it is not just currents that can pose a risk to our favorite canine pals. Sea creatures can also cause our dogs pain and anguish if we are not careful. Owners should carefully scan the waters for jellyfish or other animals that could sting and/or injure their dogs.

For dogs who are not strong swimmers, a life jacket may be just what the doctor ordered. This is particularly helpful for old dogs who are interested in going for a dip but who lack the strength to paddle continuously. It is also important to bear in mind that not all dogs are capable of swimming. Some dogs might prefer to hang out in the sand and play fetch along the shoreline. If that sounds like your dog, it is important that you not attempt to force your dog into the water. Most dogs will approach the ocean in their own time if the interest is there. If not, that’s okay too. There’s lots to do at the beach other than take a swim!

Can dogs safely swim in the ocean?

With proper precautions put in place and appropriate after care, absolutely! If you’re looking for a great place to cool off on a hot summer’s day, why not plan a trip to the beach? What a great way to make memories with Fido and the whole family!



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