When one thinks of pool safety, the first thing that comes to mind is children, however the likelihood of a dog drowning in a pool is just as high. Just as one would add safety precautions for children and ban them from playing unsupervised near a pool, the same should apply to dogs, according to pool safety champion PowerPlastics Pool Covers.
“Unfortunately, many dog owners incorrectly believe that their dog will automatically swim if he/she falls in the pool. Most dog breeds are capable of basic swimming skills but not all are natural swimmers and many will do anything to avoid getting wet! The best way to avoid a drowning accident is to first secure the pool with a solid safety cover, and then familiarise the dog with the pool,” says Carolyn Idas of PowerPlastics Pool Covers.
There are different ways to secure a pool for dogs, including a pool fence or net although these methods carry an element of risk. A small dog will fall through a net while a larger dog will get limbs stuck in the net and panic. Dogs can also dig under a pool fence or slip through the bars. As with children, the very best safety method is a solid safety pool cover.
“The PowerPlastics Solid Safety Cover is the first choice for any pet owner. This unique solid PVC safety cover is both technically and aesthetically superior to others on the market and supports up to 220kg—more than enough to keep even the biggest dogs safe.
“Because it forms a complete barrier over the pool, the water is not exposed to the elements which means water evaporation is reduced. The water is also kept cleaner which means less filtration and chemicals are required. This creates a more eco-friendly pool that is not just safe for children and pets, but cheaper to maintain too. For breeds that love swimming, the cover means you can manage how often the dog swims. Furthermore, the cover is an excellent way to shut down the pool in winter and maintain your pool’s carbon footprint at the minimum,” says Idas.
The PowerPlastics Solid Safety Cover has no fiddly hooks and eyelets. The cover is supported across the pool by aluminium battens that are secured into the cover. One end is anchored into place and the opposite end has corresponding ratchets which allow the cover to be tightened. Drainage holes ensure that no rain or sprinkler water collects on top of the cover – something that can pose a drowning risk.
A thermal pool cover that rest directly on the water should never be considered a safety cover for child or pet drowning prevention.
“Our mesh LeafNet cover is another way to add a layer of safety for smaller dog breeds but is not suitable for safeguarding dogs over 20kg,” says Idas.
Swimming lessons are the best way to build water confidence and prevent a dog panicking should it fall in. When teaching a puppy to swim, take your time and establish trust. Never throw your puppy in the pool and let him work it out on his own. This creates a panic and nothing will be learned, plus it damages the puppy / owner relationship. The pool must be a positive place.
Further ways to lessen the likelihood of a dog drowning include:
- All puppies should be introduced to the pool and made aware of its’ potential danger. Where possible, take your puppy into the water and guide and support him as he begins to swim/paddle. If he does fall in, the water is familiar and he is less likely to panic.
- It is critical to teach the puppy where the steps are. Put a favourite toy near the steps during puppy swimming lessons. Teach him to always enter using the steps and not leap in from the sides of the pool. For smaller or short-legged breeds, place a brick or two on the steps to increase the height of the step.
- Once the dog is confident in the water, throw items for the dog to fetch. This will also build up strength and delay the onset of exhaustion in a drowning situation.
- If you move to a new house, make sure you familiarise the dog with the new pool right away.
- Certain conditions can cause a dog to accidentally fall into a pool. A fit or seizure, fainting, blindness and head trauma all raise the risk. If your dog has any of these conditions, make covering the pool a priority and supervise the dog when the pool is open for swimming. Never let the dog go near the pool at night.
- Always keep your pool’s water levels high so the dog can reach the paving with its front paws. It also makes it easier for you to help the dog and lift it out from the side of the pool. If the water level is low, dragging the dog out the water becomes a lot more difficult.
- Know your breed. Certain breeds with heavy or very curly coats are more at risk of drowning. When wet, the weight of their coat means exhaustion will set in far quicker than it does for dogs with a smooth coat. Breeds with broad chests and shorter legs (Bulldogs, Corgis, Pugs) aren’t really designed for effective swimming. Heavily muscled breeds exert a lot of energy in the pool and their body mass means they can quickly sink and drown. Lean breeds (Whippets, Greyhounds) have the double disadvantage of dense muscle plus little body fat to help with buoyancy.
- Discourage your dog from drinking from the pool. Not only are the chemicals bad for dogs, they can slip and fall in while drinking.
“Always approach pool safety for dogs like pool safety for children. If it’s not good for your child, it’s probably not good for your dog!” concludes Idas.
PowerPlastics Pool Covers offers a full range of pool covers for every need, from drowning prevention and natural heating to chic fully automatic covers. All products are available across South Africa and the region through a wide distributor network. Learn more at www.powerplastics.co.za. To view a video of dogs playing on a PowerPlastics Solid Safety Cover, click here.
What to do in a dog drowning situation — canine CPR
If you find your dog in the pool, follow these steps. Artificial respiration will maintain the supply of oxygen to the blood so learning the procedure could save your dog's life. It’s not that different to CPR for humans and one follows the same A,B,C steps— Airways, Breathing, Circulation.
- First, get your dog out of the water and lay him on his side. Remove the collar and other items that may be restricting the throat. Extend the neck (push the head up) to open up the airway.
- Check his colour. If he has a blue/grey tinge, lack of oxygen has already set in. Despite this, still try to revive the dog.
- Open the dog's mouth, and get a grip on the tongue, pulling it as far forward as possible and away from the back of the throat.
- If the dog is small enough to lift, hang him upside down by the hind legs. Gravity will help expel any ingested water. If he is too large to lift, lay him down with the head at a lower level than the back legs.
- Next, close the mouth then cup the dog’s nose with your hands, making it airtight, or cover the nose with your mouth if it is a small dog. Blow two or three quick breaths into the dog’s airways. Check if his lungs are moving. Continue to blow a little stronger for 15/20 breaths per minute. Don’t blow/exhale with too much force. Human lungs are bigger and you could over inflate the dog’s lungs.
If there is no heartbeat, perform emergency CPR in combination with the artificial resuscitation described above.
- For smaller dogs, put your fingertips on either side of the thorax (the third to the sixth rib down). Apply gentle but firm compressions in one second intervals. For larger dogs, use your palm rather than your fingertips.
- After every fifth compression, breathe into the dog’s nose and repeat the cycle. This ensures that there will be oxygen in the lungs as soon as circulation restarts.
- If there is no heartbeat after three to five minutes there is probably little chance of reviving the dog.
Even if you have been lucky to revive the dog and he appears fine, it is vital that you get him checked by your veterinarian without delay. He will need monitoring as well as blood tests and treatment for possible lung infection from ingesting the pool water. Remember, the best way to prevent a drowning is to keep your pool covered.
NB—use these tips as guidelines. Always consult your vet when it comes to any specialised veterinary issues or procedures.
NOTE for drowing children: If a child has ended up in the pool and you need to apply CPR, keep actioning the CPR whilst you call for an ambulance. DO NOT put the child in the car and rush him to the nearest hospital. Its safest to keep doing the CPR and allowing the ambulance to do the transporting. This is the most valuable time the child will need to keep oxygen to the vital organs.