Summer is in full swing, and we all have been enjoying being outside and doing outside activities. We know not to expose our pets to extreme temperatures (e.g. heat), but another danger, which is not as common or well known, is secondary drowning or near drowning. It happens when a pet has been in water (pool, pond or river) and experienced distress, and came close to drowning (hence the name). The situation seems to be under control, the pet has been removed from the water, and has apparently recovered from the situation. Things have calmed down, and the pet is safe – or so we think.
Secondary drowning happens after water (from the pool or body of water) has entered the pets lungs, causing irritation and possibly infection to the lungs (pneumonia). This can happen well after the incident is over, even several days after the incident. This can be just as life threatening. Symptoms to watch for are lethargy, coughing, difficulty breathing, distress and anxiety. Lack of oxygen can lead to rapid progression of these symptoms, and it is important to seek medical help quickly, if symptoms like these are observed in an animal which has been in a dangerous situation in water.
Respiratory distress is a true emergency, and fortunately we have 24/7 emergency centres for pets if it is after hours at your regular veterinary office. Please do not wait to seek veterinary help in a situation like this! The quicker we get help, the better the outcome will be!
Just as important as knowing what to do in an emergency is to take measures to prevent a bad situation. A lot of dogs love to swim, and we have to know their ability as well as their limitations. For boating, life vests for pets are available. Pools can be covered or fenced off to avoid pets falling into them. Making sure we know where our pets are is also helpful, as well as knowing when the limits are reached. It is good to have fun, but it is also important to be aware of possible dangers.
Please contact us with any questions you might have! I hope summer will be enjoyable and safe!