Summer is here and it's time to go swimming! Humans are not the only ones who enjoy chilling out in a nice pool when it's hot outside. Many dogs love to cool off, play, and swim in the pool. But what about pool chemicals? Is chlorine bad for dogs? Learn how to make a day at the pool fun and safe for dogs.
Is Pool Water Bad For Dogs to Drink?
The chlorine level in a properly maintained swimming pool is relatively low and therefore not generally harmful to dogs if they drink small amounts of pool water. Saltwater pools contain chlorine, too, but at lower levels than traditional pools.
Drinking excess amounts of chlorinated pool water can irritate a dog's gastrointestinal tract, leading to nausea, vomiting, and erosion of the esophagus. The risks are significantly higher if the chlorine level in a pool is too high.
Occasionally, you may need to do a chemical shock to the pool for sterilization purposes. Make sure your dog is kept away from the pool until the chemical balance is safe for people to swim in again (check your product label).
Always provide an accessible source of fresh, clean drinking water for your dog so that the pool does not become the primary "watering hole." And, remember, most municipal water is chlorinated, so low levels of this chemical have been deemed safe to consume by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Does Pool Water Hurt Dogs' Skin?
While short swimming sessions are generally harmless, too much exposure to chlorine and other pool chemicals can irritate a dog's eyes, skin (including paws), and coat. This is usually more of an issue if the pool is chemically imbalanced or the dog stays in the pool for a very long time.
Should I Lower My Pool's Chlorine Level?
If you think that reducing the chemicals is a good solution for dog—or human—safety, think again! Improperly treated pool water can harbor a variety of microorganisms including bacteria, algae, fungi, and parasites. These can affect you and your dog via accidental ingestion, inhalation, or contact with skin and mucous membranes. These pathogens are often much more harmful than the level of chlorine used to maintain a sanitary pool.
Can Puppies Swim in Chlorine Pools?
In terms of chlorinated water safety, puppies share the same basic risks as adult dogs—ingesting too much can potentially cause gastrointestinal upset, and skin irritation is also possible. Due to their smaller size and more delicate skin, puppies can experience these negative effects from pool water more quickly than older dogs, so it's a good idea to limit swim sessions to shorter periods of time and watch for any issues that may arise.
Pool safety is of utmost importance when allowing pool access to puppies. They are not as experienced in water and are weaker swimmers than adult dogs. A life jacket is a great idea for your budding swimmer; just make sure you have the correct size and do not leave your pup unattended, even in a life jacket.
Are Saltwater Pools Better?
Drinking excessive water from a saltwater pool can cause dogs the same problems as chlorinated pool water. In addition, consuming too much salt can lead to diarrhea or electrolyte imbalances that can quickly become life-threatening. Fortunately, pool water contains much less salt than the ocean, so it would take a large volume of pool water to be this dangerous.
Saltwater pools might be slightly gentler on dogs' skin and mucous membranes, but short swimming sessions are still safer than extensive exposure.
Pool Safety for Dogs
If your dog knows how to swim, then it is generally safe to allow it to swim in the pool. However, make sure you supervise your dog at all times and follow these safety precautions:
- Keep a life vest on your dog or puppy if it's a weak swimmer, young, or you're unsure of its swimming skill (not all dogs are naturally great swimmers).
- Protect your dog from heatstroke. Provide plenty of cool, fresh drinking water and shade. Bring your dog into an air-conditioned home if you see signs of exhaustion. Puppies and senior dogs are particularly susceptible to heat exhaustion or stroke.
- Don't let your dog walk on extremely hot concrete or deck boards that can burn its paw pads. If in doubt, test the surface with the back of your hand. If it feels too hot for you, then it's too hot for your dog's feet. Cool the surface by pouring cold water where your dog will walk.
- Make sure your dog has a safe way to enter and exit the pool.
If you and your dog are swimming together, watch out for those claws. The motion of a dog's feet while swimming makes its claws more prominent, and some dogs try to hold on to their human friends. A swimming dog can seriously scratch bare skin.
How Dogs Affect Your Pool
If you plan to let your dog swim in your pool, you will need to consider more than just the dog's safety. Having a dog swim in your pool can negatively affect your pool.
- If your pool has a vinyl or plastic liner, then you should not let dogs swim. Their claws can quickly cause major damage that is expensive to repair.
- Dog hair, dander, dirt, debris, bacteria, and even traces of fecal material on a dog's coat and feet will go right into the pool when your dog enters. This can clog or slow the pool skimmer and filter. It also alters the pH of the water, increasing the need for more chemicals.
Many pool maintenance professionals say that the effect of one dog in the pool is equal to that of three people. You can slightly reduce this by brushing out the dog and hosing off the dog with water before the dog enters the pool. However, you will still need extra maintenance to keep the pool clean and safe.
Dogs drinking pool water: dangers of chlorine. American Kennel Club.
Water Disinfection with Chlorine and Chloramine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Swimming-related illnesses. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Overview of salt toxicity. Merck Veterinary Manual.