Summer Fun Can Be Fatal To Pets

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As summer arrives, pet owners will be traveling to beaches, lakes and rivers and preparing their pools for the coming heat.

While fun is anticipated, pet owners should be cautious about their animals' safety around these open-water areas. Pets, most often dogs, can drown, get severely hurt and, in some cases, die from exposure to open waters.

Dangers around water areas come in many forms, and pet owners need to take a few simple measures to avoid a tragedy. Animals, like children, need to be taught how to enter, swim in and exit open waters.

Owners should never throw their pets into the water, as some animals have a hard time swimming or don't know how to swim at all. Owners should get in the water first and call to their pets. If the animal likes the water, it will come in and start to swim toward the owner. Let it move at its own pace.

"Americans love the water; we have many beaches, lakes and pools to enjoy this summer. Just remember to take care of your pet's safety when having fun," says Ron Faoro, DVM, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association. "Taking a few extra precautions can make all the difference.

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Exiting water areas can be dangerous for a pet. Climbing up ladders can be difficult for animals because they often don't know how to use them to exit a water area. Dogs have a hard time exiting swimming pools because their paws cannot grip ladder rungs. The same caution should be considered when taking your pet out on a boat. Owners can teach their pets to use a ladder by showing them, either physically or by example, how to climb up and out of the water.

Consider purchasing animal exit devices for your pool and putting a life jacket on your pet when you take it to a lake, river or the ocean. Rivers and oceans present the additional danger of strong currents, which can sweep an animal away.

"Flotation devices are a great alternative for pets new to the water or that are getting old. Pets may not be strong enough to swim on their own, so a little help would allow them to escape the heat without being in danger," Faoro added. "Of course pets, like children, should never be left alone in the water -- even if they are wearing floatation devices."

Pools may pose chemical dangers to animals. You should rinse all animals exposed to chlorine with fresh water after swimming in pools. Be sure your dog knows how to get out of your pool -- teach him or her where the steps are, starting when he or she is a puppy.

Ocean water also poses a danger to your pet while you're at the beach. Drinking the salt water can be dangerous to your pet's health. Bring fresh water to the beach for your animal to drink when it's thirsty.

Pets can play safely around open water if pet owners act responsibly," Dr. Faoro says. "Pets and their owners can both have fun if the owners follow these few precautions."

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