Swimming hazards you say? What hazards can possibly associated with swimming my dog? I thought swimming was a safe non weight bearing exercise. The latter is definitely true but there are a number of hazards with taking your pet swimming.
Labrador Retrievers are great swimmers and love to be in the water. The big problem is they are also prone to something called “limber tail” . Have you ever had you dog swimming for a day and they have had a great time chasing sticks. Later that evening or into the next day have they ever been pathetically quiet and not able to wag their tail? Long swimming periods and vigorous swimming in water that is too cold or too warm can cause the muscles of the tail, especially those at the base of the tail, to become over used. When this happens those muscles get sore, just like yours after you have had a particularily hard work out at the gym. With these muscles being sore they cannot wag their tail or hold it upright. It may extend out horizontally for a few inches and then drop down vertically. Often they try to sit down and cry in pain. All of these are symptoms of limber tail. It will correct itself (just as your sore muscles do) and after a few days to a couple of weeks they will be back to proudly waving their tail and typically want to go right back in the water. If they are very sore then you can see your veterinarian for a pain medication that may help. To prevent this from happening, don’t let them swim for too long at one time.
Another hazard on the west coast is salt toxicity. This happens when you pet ingests too much salt water while playing and swimming in the ocean. Too much salt can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, incoordination, seizures, depression and ultimately brain swelling that can kill your pet. The salt from the water makes your dog’s blood hyperosmotic and they will then drink a lot of fresh water to counteract this which can then cause the brain tissue to swell. If your dog is thirsty from playing and does not have enough fresh water available they will go to the nearest source and drink the salt water. Make sure you carry lots of fresh drinking water when you take your pet to the beach. If you see any of the above signs after a day at the beach seek veterinary attention immediately so you dog can be placed on i.v. fluids to centrally rehydrate them.
Make sure your pets are rinsed and well dried after a day at the beach especially if they have a long hair coat. Moisture that remains next to the skin can cause a breakdown of the normal skin’s defenses and cause a bacterial infection. It can also cause your dog to be itchy which can lead to “hotspots” and a trip to the vet. Make sure any matts are removed fron their coats as well because moisture collecting under the matts can cause a dermatitis.
Again fun at the beach is great but make sure your four legged friends have fun in moderation and that they are dried, rested and well watered so they remain healthy.