Is pool chlorine safe for dogs?

dog diveAs the summer temperatures get hotter (especially in extremely hot areas like Las Vegas) it is common for families to consider allowing their dog to jump into the pool with them in order to cool off.  One of the most common questions that are asked of veterinarians and animal hospitals during the summer months will be something like “Is the chlorine in my pool safe for my dog to swim in or drink?”

The chlorine in your pool is safe for your dog to swim in, just as much as it is safe for you to swim in, however, there are several things that you must watch out for when your dog jumps in the pool.  Dogs tend to ingest more of the water they are swimming in than humans typically do, as they do not understand that the water is not good for them to drink.  If your dog drinks too much water from the pool, the result could be salt poisoning or electrolyte imbalance, or the chlorine may upset their stomach.  In order to prevent your dog from ingesting too much chlorinated water, make sure you provide plenty of freshwater to them and show them where it is.  Typically, dogs will prefer to drink the freshwater over the chlorinated water as it tastes better, however, if they are hot and cannot find any alternative they will drink the chlorinated water to reduce their thirst.  It is important to make sure they can find freshwater to drink.

Additionally, the chlorine in the pool water might cause irritations to your dog’s skin or eyes.  Make it a habit to rinse your dog off in the shower or by a garden hose providing fresh water after they are done swimming.  This will reduce the chances of their skin or eyes being irritated by the chlorine or pool chemicals.  If you notice your dog itching or scratching after they have gone swimming, it might be an indication that the chlorinated water is irritating their skin.  Bathing your dog in freshwater will reduce the irritation, but in the case of ongoing irritations or any behavior that is unusual after swimming it could be that your dog is allergic to the chemicals in the water.  If you notice anything that seems unusual about your dog’s appearance or behavior after swimming contact your veterinarian or animal hospital immediately.

Lastly, remember that not all dogs know how to swim.  It is a common belief that any dog will begin to swim if put into the water, but dogs that have never been exposed to deep water may panic and thrash about instead of swimming.  Also, many dogs that have had injuries or are older may not be able to swim enough to keep their head above the water.  Introduce your dog to the water slowly and carefully, supporting their body during the process in order to allow them to get accustomed to the water and how to swim.  Throwing your dog into the water could result in drowning.

As a final note, if you have a pool and your dog has never been in it, it is a good idea to spend some time putting your dog slowly into the pool to make sure they know how to swim if they were to fall in when alone.  Spend the time to support their body and allow them to get used to swimming, and show them how to find the shallow end and exit the pool.  A little bit of time spent training your dog to swim can save his or her life.