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With the sun shining and the warm weather here to stay (hopefully), it’s time for hiking, camping, lakes, swimming, and fun. There are lots of things to consider when planning outdoor activities with your pet(s). From tick prevention and Lyme disease vaccines to allergies and algal blooms in the water, there are countless things to be discussed. For today, I’ll touch on a few important things to remember if your dog (or cat) goes swimming or wading in the water.

  1. Not all dogs are good swimmers – it’s a misnomer that dogs can all swim well. If it’s their first time, stay close and only let them in the shallow water until you know they are comfortable swimming. If not, consider a floatation device or vest for your dog.

  2. After a swim, give your dog a good rinse or bath with fresh water. Lake/pond water may contain a variety of substances (bacteria, algae, toxins, parasites etc) that can cause skin irritation and rashes if left on the skin.

  3. Especially if you know your dog is prone to ear infections, bring some ear cleaner. After a swim, clean your dog’s ears to help minimize the chances of an ear infection or swimmers ear. Water itself doesn’t cause an infection, but moisture promotes yeast and bacterial growth. And lake water isn’t always the cleanest.

  4. Algal blooms – keep an eye on the Blue-Green Algae Health Advisories from Alberta Health Services. Algal blooms in lakes can result in poor swimming conditions resulting in skin rashes and irritation on skin contact, and severe vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. If you see an advisory, try to avoid going in or allowing your animal into the water. See the link for current updates.

  5. Stale contaminated puddles of water can harbour numerous bacteria and parasites such as Giardia. These can cause gastrointestinal irritation, diarrhea, and vomiting. Parasites like Giardia are also zoonotic – can be transmitted to people. Try to avoid letting your pet drink from puddles on the ground. Provide fresh water frequently.

Stay safe, have fun, and enjoy the sun! If you’re planning a trip or some outdoor activities with your pet, speak with your veterinarian about things to consider. We’re here to help!

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