As the heat of summer increases, we are reminded that this is the time of year where we all like to get out on the water. And that can include our four legged friends.

Of course, humans need to take precautions for themselves, such as protecting themselves from the sun, the surf, rips and hidden dangers in shallow waters.  And it’s no different for our four legged friends.

If you are planning on taking your fur pal for a water adventure, whether it be on a boat, river or beach, first consider how you can protect him from the dangers of the elements and the environment.  Pets should be treated with exactly the same care as humans when it comes to water safely.

Boating with your pet

Never assume that your dog can swim.  Even if you have a natural water dog such as a Labrador, the most important item is a Personal Flotation Device.  These are tailor made for dogs, they come in a variety of sizes and can be found in good pet shops.  Take your pet with you to try on the device so that you know it fits, and will not slip off.  Remember even if you dog can swim in the pool, its an entirely different matter in the open seas.

Dog breeds

Be mindful of your dog breed, as this will give you guidance regarding their acceptance of water activities and help you make decisions regarding what safety issues to take on board before you set out on your adventure.  Your vet may also be able to give you useful advice.  For example,  Bulldogs, Pugs, Corgis and Greyhounds can find it really difficult in the water. Other breeds (such as Maltese), enjoy the water but are susceptible to arthritis and chills.

If your pet has never been on a boat before remember this can be a challenging experience for them.  Let them get acquainted with the movement of the boat, and the feeling of the PFD before you set off.  The same would apply if you were taking your dog on a kayak or canoe.  If a dog gets spooked or nervous it could just jump off, so always keep them in your sights.

If you are in a speed boat it’s a good idea to use a harness and attach them safely in a contained area.

Covered area

It’s important your pet has shade so that it can be protected from the sun.   Dogs can get sunburnt and dehydrated in hot weather.

 Fresh Water

If your dog gets thirsty it could try drinking sea water or contaminated river water which could be dangerous.  (Stagnant water can be very dangerous).  So most importantly ensure you have plenty of fresh water available for your pooch that is easily accessible.

Toilet breaks

Before you board the boat make sure your pet has time for a toilet break.  And in case of an accident, don’t forget the poo bags, and wipes!

Stingers, jellyfish and snakes

We have some of the most dangerous wildlife in the world.  If your dog loves to explore they can be susceptible to snake bites (around rivers), stingers and jellyfish.  So if your pet is in the water watch out for these creatures and remove your pet from the water if you spot anything.


Yuk!  There’s nothing many dogs like more than something stinky that’s washed up on the beach.  Rotten stuff can be very harmful to pets and there can also be things like fishing wire and hooks wrapped around dead fish.  If they do manage to get hold of something you are unsure of, monitor closely and phone your vet if you are in doubt.

When you get home

It’s always a good idea to wash your pet after a water adventure.   This will prevent them injesting any nasties when they are grooming afterwards.

Final word

By being aware of the dangers and following the advice above, you are well placed to help keep your pet safe around water.  But of course it is important to also have a safety plan ready in the unlikely event of an emergency.  Carry your vet’s details with you and also a local emergency vet if you are away from home.  It’s not a bad idea of be aware of CPR and how you can use it on your pet as well, if needs be.

Of course, don’t forget to make sure your pet is insured for vet expenses which can arise unexpectedly, no matter what activity you are pursuing with your fur  pal!

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Liz has a passion for all things cat and dog, and was one of the first in Australia to bring Pet Insurance to the market. She has headed up Petsecure for the past 12 years, and is committed to promoting and supporting the amazing work done by rescue groups around Australia, and those who work to promote a better life for all animals.

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